The New York Giants safety position is littered with versatile playmakers. Jabrill Peppers is a former top-rated high school cornerback prospect turned Big 10 linebacker and return specialist. Julian Love was a consensus All-American corner at Notre Dame prior to finishing 2019 as Pro Football Focus’ 13th-best ranked NFL Rookie. Add newcomer Xavier McKinney to the mix and Big Blue has unlimited position flexibility on the backend of their defense.
Xavier McKinney is Mr. Versatile
Speaking of McKinney, the jack-of-all-trades former Alabama standout recently joined the Giants Huddle Podcast to discuss what defensive role he would feel most comfortable serving in during his rookie season with the Giants. Spoiler, it’s everywhere.
I’ve always said this and I’ll always keep saying it, my biggest comfort zone is I’m comfortable anywhere. Any zone that I feel like I’m uncomfortable at, I try to make it my comfort zone. But how I play and the way I play, I’m comfortable at any level of the defense. I try not to just pinpoint one thing that I do well. I’m just excited to be ready for wherever the opportunity might be.
McKinney isn’t lying about his comfort level of playing at multiple levels on defense. The 2019 All-SEC selection was just one of only five collegiate safeties to play over 450 snaps in the box, slot and at free safety over the past two seasons. Only one of those players, McKinney, produced a Pro Football Focus grade of 70.0+ at all three alignments.
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McKinney’s Lofty Expectations
Expectations are sky-high for McKinney entering his first professional season. He’s readily ranked atop the majority of preseason Defensive Rookie of the Year odds. While Touchdown Wire even went as far as to peg him as the near-future Epicenter of Big Blue’s Defense.
His versatility is a key catalyst in the slew of praise he has received. It’s a reason why many were shocked that New York was able to snag him at the top of the 2nd-round. It’s the same reason 3x-Super Bowl winning GM Charley Casserly called him the single best selection in the entire draft.
McKinney’s former head coach, Nick Saban, is no stranger to the multitude of ways McKinney can positively affect a game, something he discussed in detail with the Giants Huddle Podcast back in May.
I think Xavier has lots of diversity as a player. He can play man to man, he’s got pretty good ball judgement. He’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness. He’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to.
He can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions.
McKinney certainly has plenty to live up to, and now with the Giants’ virtual offseason complete, the safety is ready to prove his worth to the organization, as well as his new teammates.
I’m just ready to go and build that relationship with those guys. And actually ready to get on the field and be able to play with all these guys that I’ve seen in the past – like watched on TV. I’m ready to get things going at this point.