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McKinney started all 13 games in a third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC junior campaign, topping the Tide's defense with 95 tackles (5.5 for loss, three sacks) and finishing among the national leaders with four forced fumbles. He also intercepted three passes, broke up five others and blocked a kick. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore, grabbing the starting role in fall camp (73 tackles, six for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 15 starts). McKinney was named the Defensive MVP of the Orange Bowl with five tackles and four pass breakups against Oklahoma to send Alabama to the national title game. He returned an interception for a touchdown in both 2018 and '19. As a true freshman in 2017, McKinney played in 13 games as a reserve and on special teams (eight tackles, 1.5 for loss). The Roswell, Georgia, native was a top-50 overall prospect nationally after earning state Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution his senior season (82 tackles, seven interceptions, nine pass breakups).
By Lance Zierlein
NFL Analyst
Draft Projection
Round 1
NFL Comparison
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
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.
  • Known for high football IQ and field toughness
  • Versatility to match up with every personnel grouping
  • Plus burst with impressive change of direction in space
  • Smooth backpedal with agile feet and fluid hips to weave with quarterback
  • Adequate ball-tracking and poise when the ball goes up
  • Speed for foot race over the top in Cover 1
  • Intent on deciphering the quarterback's eyes
  • Anticipates and cuts under breaks looking for takeaways
  • Recognizes route combinations and adjusts coverage accordingly
  • Has instant burst to close and strikes with intent
  • Uses length to clamp and roll as tackle finisher
  • Takes smart angles into alley to clean up spillage
  • Above-average blitz talent from mugged-up A-gap or off the slot
  • Had three interceptions, but could, and should, have had three more
  • Allows separation underneath when staring into the backfield
  • Lost coverage leverage twice against South Carolina in two-deep
  • Needs to recognize and navigate rub routes
  • Small windows stay open when attempting to bait throws
  • Got beat for touchdowns in 2019 when matched on big targets
  • Allows receivers room when he's right there to squeeze
  • Inconsistent gather and balance as open-field tackler
  • Can lose tackle positioning when he becomes impatient
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Coverage Spacing - He doesn't have elite single high FS range to roam the back end but his football intelligence is top shelf and allows him to shade and attack — he'll often crash the party at the catch point and disrupt targets. Playing him in deep half or as a rat in intermediates will yield plenty of pass disruptions in zone

Acceleration - He's got pretty fluid click and close, able to really explode on routes breaking off in front of his face. He's fearless stepping down into the alley too. Shows effective closing burst from the nickel to duck into gaps and attack the QB. Simply doesn't have the long speed to play sideline to sideline in single high. 

Tackling - Plays with an attitude. More consistent here in 2019 and smacked guys in the mouth all season long. He'll attack the football as opportunities arise but his contact balance and confidence to run the feet and deliver jarring hits has produced effective kill shots on bigger ball carriers. Impressive space tackler. 

Zone Coverage Skills - Instinctive. He flows to mirror the eyes of QBs and will excel if he's given free assignments to sucker quarterbacks and bait throws over the middle of the field. He takes good angles and times his arrival and contests at the catch point from overhead leverage with consistency to not draw penalties. 

Ball Skills - His hands are feisty at the catch point and he does a good job of raking at the ball when he's a tick late the throw. Hands are soft on tipped balls and throws he's able to undercut in man coverage. Appreciate his nose for the football in all senses, too — he's ripping out the ball on tackles and at the catch point routinely. 

Competitive Toughness - Not afraid of contact and love his stickiness as he's carrying routes down the field. His persistence extends to catch point reps, as a tackler and when stacking up blockers in the secondary. Has had success roaming as a sub-package LB as well to step into the second level and fill the run. 

Flexibility - Clean mobility throughout his frame. He does well to hinge and open himself into throws and provides good extension skills to combat the ball. His base is dynamic and doesn't show a lot of wasted movement. Reach to spring and explode laterally from flat footed stance is notable as well. 

Feet/COD - Appreciate how well he stays balanced. He's not one to hop out of stance prematurely or provided a swinging gate when he's leveraged over the top of routes in coverage. His movement economy is aided by lower body mobility and protects him from drifting at the top of route breaks or taking sloppy transitions. 

Man Coverage Skills - Lock down? No, not necessarily. But he's a pest from the trail position and tackled assignments against tight ends down the field. He's got good length to press or disrupt inside the contact window as well before flipping his hips with clean transitions to work into the trail position. Match-up weapon in the MOF. 

Versatility - Ask him to do anything. Go ahead. He's a one size fits all defender for some kind of primary role but his football IQ and athletic ability and tackling skills will bring him high reps and snap counts regardless of the sub-package in the NFL. Creative coordinators will get the most out of him by using him with flexibility. 


Best Trait - Versatility

Worst Trait - Deep Range

Best Film - LSU (2019)

Worst Film - Clemson (2018)

Red Flags - None

Player Summary - Xavier McKinney can be a game changing defender for an NFL defense. With plus tackling skills in space, strong football IQ and a knack for hunting the football in all phases, McKinney projects as a difference maker and explosive play creator. McKinney's versatility should keep him on the field at all times and he's shown ability to thrive as a deep third or half safety, in the nickel, blitzing as a pressure player, keying the run and more. Do it all defender and plug/play starter. 

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Kiper said this morning he was the best available player for round 2, so I'm good with the pick, even though I trust you guys' opinions more than the experts. 


The homer in me wanted Delpit from LSU, reminds me of the honey badger in certain ways, always involved in the play.  But I like this pick

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 Guess this means Love is moving back to CB which is not a bad thing.  I do wonder if McKinney is the eventual successor to Peppers simply because I don't see McKinney as the sideline to sideline high free safety we're still missing.

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10 minutes ago, Tempest said:

 Guess this means Love is moving back to CB which is not a bad thing.  I do wonder if McKinney is the eventual successor to Peppers simply because I don't see McKinney as the sideline to sideline high free safety we're still missing.

I think it's more of a death sentence for Peppers next offseason when he's looking to get paid.

Want a contract like Collins? Goodbye.

6 minutes ago, Pdouble said:

Teams run a lot of 3 safety sets, plus I bet we will see a lot of Peppers in the box with Love and McKinney as high safeties. 


Yeah, all three are going  to be on the field at the same time more often than not.


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3 hours ago, Pdouble said:

Teams run a lot of 3 safety sets, plus I bet we will see a lot of Peppers in the box with Love and McKinney as high safeties. 


Giants did win a super bowl with a three safety set so that is also a possibility.  I'll let you all figure out which one. :D

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After watching film of this kid, we may have found an gem in the second round.

He plays faster than his combine speed and does it all.

Free safety, strong safety, nickle coverage, bringing the heat from the edge, playing down on the box as a LB.

His instincts really give him and edge any time he's playing single high defender he makes a break for the reciever before the QB has even started to throw his way.

Plus he tackles like a LB wraps guys up and hits with enough pop to jar balls loose.

This kid is going to be all over the field under Graham.

Pretty excited to see him honestly.

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You never know this week is the deadline for 5th year options on Engram and Peppers.

They might not pick up Peppers contract with how well Love has played and McKinney being drafted.

Lots of big decisions and big pay days coming up in the next season or two for big blue.

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Safety is a giant question mark.  Peppers seems good but we had him for like half a season.  Same with Love.   Looked promising but behind them was only Ebner who is just a special teams guy.  


Safety was a definite need.  

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