The New York Giants got arguably the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft when Xavier McKinney miraculously fell out of the 1st-Round and into Big Blue’s eagerly awaiting hands at No. 36-overall in the 2nd-Round.
Entering the three day Draft event, many believed New York was set at safety with incumbents Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love at the position and that the McKinney selection was simply selecting the best player available.
However, New York’s interest in McKinney goes well beyond that.
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Judge Has Eyed McKinney for Years
Joe Judge notably stems off of not only the Bill Belichick coaching tree, but the Nick Saban tree as well. Judge coached alongside Saban from 2009 through 2011 at Alabama, and his Tide connections apparently paid huge dividends in this year’s draft.
According to the NY Daily News, the first time that Xavier McKinney caught Judge’s eye was a few springs ago. Judge, then a special teams coach with the Patriots, was at an Alabama practice scouting other Crimson Tide players. However, McKinney just kept sticking out like a sore thumb.
He stuck out on the field at a practice. He flies around, plays with a lot of passion and energy, and has the ability to get to the quarterback on the back end and be a (leader) in the back (who can line up) the defense.
Per the team’s official website, Judge has since touched on the Alabama roots running through the Giants’ organization as reasons why New York feels so strongly about their selection of McKinney.
There’s a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him. There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns (running backs coach) and Jody Wright (defensive assistant) were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that’s a great advantage. … There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that’s what we’re looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get.
McKinney Embraces Structure
In his short time with the team, Joe Judge’s stern, no B.S. approach has been applauded by Giants fans.
Judge has learned from arguably the two best football coaches of all time, both of whom are known for running tight ships. Judge hopes to bring that same type of hard-nosed mentality to Big Blue, something he pointed out to McKinney shortly after drafting him, per ESPN’s Sal Palantonio.
You’ve been through this with Coach Saban. I don’t want to hear anything about Super Bowls or any of that crap, you got that?
As Judge noted, McKinney is no stranger to the type of structure that the coach envisions for the Giants organization. McKinney played under Saban at Alabama for the past three seasons and appears ready to help usher in that same type of winning mindset and mentality in New York.
I’m good with structure so it’s never been a problem, never a problem. Those are things I like a lot. I like having that structure, when it’s strict with almost a tight ship being run by the coaches. But me, I just do what I’m asked to do. I try to do it at a high level. And I’m just trying to win. So I’m gonna do what it takes to win games and do whatever I can do to help.