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2020 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama DB Xavier McKinney

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McKinney is the Crimson Tide’s do-it-all Swiss Army knife.

Alabama v Auburn
Everything you’d want from a safety but the 4.3 speed.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Ever since Vic Fangio mentioned a desire to upgrade the linebacker position (with nuance) with a chance that they would play more 6 DB sets, I haven’t been able to let it go. Everyone in the AFC now looks at Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as the roadblock to the Super bowl. To get past them, there’s going to need to be a defense good enough to match up with Andy Reid’s dangerously versatile cache of weapons.

It’s for this reason a Swiss Army knife could be a secretly enticing option for the Broncos, and on this side of Isaiah Simmons there isn’t a single prospect in this NFL Draft class as versatile as Alabama’s Xavier McKinney.

At the end of the day, McKinney is a weapon with a clutch gene.

Scouting Report:

  • Solid athlete who is more quick than fast, and won’t blow you away with his tests or size.
  • Plays big, he punches above his weight and shows up in the clutch.
  • A coach on the field who Nick Saban trusted with a variety of assignments.
  • Solid in man coverage with an ability to match up on slot weapons and stick to waterbugs.
  • Very good ball skills, has a nose for it with soft hands to take advantage of mistakes.
  • Solid in run support with good instincts and a take no prisoners mentality.
  • Solid tackling in space, could grow in this area by respecting his limitations.
  • Very good blitzer who times his rush to maximize impact.
  • Needs to improve pursuit angles or top tier speed will cause him issues.
  • Adequate play strength who gets by on moxie more than power.
McKinney is a pest in coverage.

What I’ve heard/read:

Xavier McKinney S Alabama - Draft Player Profile | The Draft Network

Xavier McKinney is a versatile defensive back that can fill multiple roles at a high level for an NFL defense, just like he showcased at Alabama. Whether it’s deep zones, man coverage from the slot or lining up close to the line of scrimmage, McKinney can execute. He showcases good processing speed, functional athleticism and the size needed to perform. There are times his angles can be too flat which impacts his tackling results. For a defense that likes to be matchup-specific with its defensive backs, McKinney’s presence should lend itself to more scheme multiplicity. His blend of size, range and processing skills are a strong foundation for him to build upon at the next level and he’s already experienced functioning in a variety of roles for a Nick Saban defense.

Xavier McKinney S Alabama - Draft Player Profile | The Draft Network

Xavier McKinney is a versatile defensive back that can fill multiple roles at a high level for an NFL defense, just like he showcased at Alabama. Whether it’s deep zones, man coverage from the slot or lining up close to the line of scrimmage, McKinney can execute. He showcases good processing speed, functional athleticism and the size needed to perform. There are times his angles can be too flat which impacts his tackling results. For a defense that likes to be matchup-specific with its defensive backs, McKinney’s presence should lend itself to more scheme multiplicity. His blend of size, range and processing skills are a strong foundation for him to build upon at the next level and he’s already experienced functioning in a variety of roles for a Nick Saban defense.

NFL Draft & Combine Profile - Xavier McKinney | NFL.com

Ascending safety prospect offering a combination of plus athleticism, field awareness and versatility. McKinney split time equally at slot, free safety and in the box and is accomplished in each. His coverage instincts, athleticism and quick-twitch burst are more cornerback than safety, which is why he’s likely to be a coveted toy for teams looking to upgrade and diversify their sub-packages. He can sit in center field all day if needed, and he’s an adequate open-field tackler but has room for improvement in that area. McKinney represents the new breed of versatile, matchup safety with high upside as an early starter.

2020 NFL Draft: Xavier McKinney Scouting Report

Xavier McKinney is a top two safety in this class with his ability to play all over the defense. Some have referred to him as a poor man’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Maybe it is the crimson jersey that he wears on Saturdays, but definitely see that in his game.

PFF Draft Guide

McKinney has the best grading profile of any safety in the class. He’s a swiss-army knife perfect for a diverse role in modern defenses.

Why he fits:

According to Pro Football Focus’ charting, McKinney played more than 200 snaps at safety, nickel, and in the box in 2019. His versatility is an asset all its own as it would provide Vic Fangio flexibility with the rest of the secondary. Maybe he wants to move Kareem Jackson down to corner, or the slot? Maybe it’s better to play Bryce Callahan on the outside while McKinney takes slot duties? Maybe the Broncos deploy a dime (6DB) set as their base nickel with Todd Davis leaving the field for two slot corners?

All these things could be on the table with McKinney in orange and blue, and in the long term he has the kind of game that provides insurance against Kareem Jackson in 2021 and beyond. Add to that his knack for big plays in critical moments as well as the value of coverage in today’s game, and the upside is enormous.

Final Thoughts

The best teams in football plan ahead with their draft picks and keep positional value in mind. There are few things as valuable to the Broncos defensive system as versatile coverage defenders, and with Kareem Jackson quickly approaching what may be his last training camp it could be wise to invest in a future running mate for Justin Simmons.

Poll

Would you be happy if Elway drafted Xavier McKinney?

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  • 74%
    Yes!
    (314 votes)
  • 25%
    No!
    (110 votes)
424 votes total Vote Now