Can Xavier McKinney be the key to New York Giants defense?

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft pick, Xavier McKinney. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft pick, Xavier McKinney. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Is Xavier McKinney the missing piece of the New York Giants defense?

After the New York Giants took Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, many fans were left with mixed feelings. Sure, Andrew Thomas was arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft, but the Giants missed out on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

Giants fans became enamored with Simmons because of his ability to play all over the field. NFL scouts even labeled him as a swiss-army knife because of his ability to ‘do it all’.

Even though they missed out on a true talent in Simmons, general manager Dave Gettleman wasn’t sweating. In the second round, the New York Giants drafted their own swiss-army knife in Alabama safety Xavier McKinney.

Numerous scouts had McKinney listed as their top safety and also tabbed him with a first-round grade in the 2020 draft. It was a surprise to many to see him drop to the 36th pick. Many people believe he dropped out of the first after a poor combine showing, where he left early due to cramps.

Nevertheless, the Giants are getting a really good player in McKinney. A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, McKinney was often the anchor and leader of the defense. In 2019, he was named a team captain, which is a huge honor for a football team like Alabama.

While in Tuscaloosa, McKinney moved all around the field and played multiple positions.  He logged 323 snaps as a linebacker, 227 snaps as a slot corner, and 271 snaps as a safety. Giants fans should expect to see him used very similarly in New York.

First and foremost, as a safety, McKinney will help to strengthen the Giants’ poor pass defense, which ranked 28th last season. In his collegiate career, McKinney showed solid coverage skills and was able to rack up a total of 15 pass deflections and 5 interceptions.

McKinney also only allowed a 46.5 passer rating when targeted in coverage, according to PFF.  He will most likely be tasked with defending the opposing team’s tight end, a position that has given the Giants trouble in recent history.

McKinney will also help the Giants mediocre rush defense. At Bama, he was not afraid to track down runners and deliver some big hits. The former four-star recruit had a total of 175 career tackles and was able to tackle runners for a loss 13 times. He also does a nice job on the blitz, as he was able to get to the quarterback six times in his career.

Fans of the New York Giants might experience some sort of déjà vu with McKinney. He plays very similarly to ex-Giant Landon Collins, except with better coverage skills. Even though Collins is not with the Giants anymore, he played with them for four seasons and was often the best player on the defense. Expect to see McKinney have the same affect on the defense.