Alabama’s Xavier McKinney was thought to be a lock as a first-round pick in this year’s draft but lasted until the 36th overall spot, where he was selected by the New York Giants. They hope he’s the next Landon Collins. Here are McKinney’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Giants’ over/under win total.
McKinney was a four-star recruit out of Roswell, Ga., who chose Alabama over Clemson and Ohio State – that decision was a surprise as most projected he would go to Clemson. McKinney was ranked as the nation’s No. 70 overall prospect and No. 8 safety per the 247Sports composite in the Class of 2017.
He didn’t redshirt as a freshman. He worked on special teams while seeing some action in the secondary and totaled eight stops with 1.5 tackles for loss (-1 yard) while playing in 13 of the Tide’s 14 games.
McKinney earned a starting safety spot in fall camp his sophomore year. In the Orange Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal win over Oklahoma, he was named the game’s Defensive MVP. McKinney tied for second on the team with five tackles against the Sooners and contributed a career-high four pass breakups as well. In the national title game vs. Clemson, he led the Tide with seven tackles.
Overall in 2018, McKinney ranked third on UA with 73 tackles, including six tackles for loss (-44 yards) and three sacks (-40 yards). He tied for second with two interceptions, including one of the Crimson Tide’s pick-sixes in 2018, intercepting a pass at Ole Miss and returning the interception 30 yards for a score. He added 10 pass breakups to tie for second on UA to go with two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble as a sophomore.
Then last year as a junior, he was first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American as well as a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. McKinney finished 10th in the SEC in tackles with 95 across his 13 games. He Tide’s leader in tackles, including 5.5 for loss (-40 yards) and three sacks (-21 yards) and totaled a league-high and team-high four fumbles to tie for second in Alabama single-season records. McKinney added three interceptions (78 yards) to go with five pass breakups and five quarterback hurries as a junior. He returned one of his interceptions for an 81-yard touchdown.
Projected as a first-round pick, McKinney declared for the draft after his junior year. Nick Saban put him in the “Minkah Fitzpatrick role” where he split his snaps at box safety (285), free safety (271), and slot corner (227). Using his natural instincts, he stacked up impact plays from multiple alignments, including as an occasional rusher off the edge.
“Dear Bama Nation,” McKinney said in his announcement on Instagram. “First of all, I would like to thank the man above — without Him none of this would have been possible. I would also like to thank my family, coaches, friends and loved ones who have stuck with me through the bad and the good along this journey. Making it to this point in my life was not easy, but with hard work and dedication, I was able to persevere through it all. I was able to make many memories and create bonds that will stay with me forever.”
The Giants were ecstatic he was available at No. 36 overall as they had a first-round grade on McKinney: “We had our mind made up our mind that if Xavier fell to us we were taking him,’’ general manager Dave Gettleman said.
McKinney’s combine performance was incomplete. His 4.63 time in the 40 was slower than expected due to cramping. He did not run the three-cone drill or the 20-yard shuttle to measure his agility. His broad and vertical jumps were above average. With better testing, McKinney would have been a consensus top-20 prospect, but he still offers Pro Bowl upside given his intangibles, versatility, and instincts.
That’s the type of player new coach Joe Judge needs to turn around a defense that gave up too many big passing plays in 2019. The Giants needed a safety to start alongside Jabrill Peppers. That then frees up Julian Love, who played well late last season, to be utilized as the third safety/nickel.