Why the Slide?: Xavier McKinney

Why the Slide?: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Six years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Four years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

During the course of last fall, LSU safety Grant Delpit failed to live up to the media hype, while Alabama safety Xavier McKinney emerged as the best safety in college football during 2019. The Alabama defense was not as good as it had been in previous seasons, but McKinney was an exception to some disappointing play, putting together a superb year in which he displayed a lot of versatility in coverage and run support. That led to McKinney being the consensus top safety for the 2020 NFL Draft and a projected first-round pick. Thus, it was surprising when he slipped to the second round.

In speaking to team sources, McKinney slipped out of the first round because of size and speed concerns. At the NFL Scouting Combine, McKinney checked in at 6-foot, 201 pounds, which is undersized for the pro gae. He also ran much slower than expected in the 40-yard dash, putting up a time of 4.64 seconds. The size issue had some some teams worried about him holding up in the NFL. However, teams loved his tape and thought he was an excellent football player.

High in the second round, the New York Giants ended McKinney’s fall, which was an excellent move by them. They landed the top offensive lineman and top safety in the 2020 draft class, and both of them having plug-and-play potential. New York needed a free safety upgrade to next to Jabrill Peppers, and McKinney’s instincts and versatility in coverage should upgrade the team’s pass defense immediately. To go along with McKinney, the Giants upgraded the cornerback position in free agency with James Bradberry, so their secondary should be vastly improved in 2020. McKinney landed in a good situation to launch a successful NFL career, and this analyst believes there will be teams that regret passing on McKinney.

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