The third best player in the state of Georgia and a top 40 player overall it was a huge for Alabama to get Xavier McKinney out of rival territory. After playing here and there during his freshman year McKinney won a starting job and thrived as a sophomore with 74 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and 10 passes defended. Now that Xavier McKinney is NFL Draft eligible we take a look at his performance against Ole Miss and their strong passing attack in this Scouting Notes feature.
What Xavier McKinney Does Well
Xavier McKinney is an explosive safety that can really fly around the field covering a lot of ground and getting to the ball in a hurry. In Alabama’s defense he is used in a variety of different ways throughout their game against Ole Miss. McKinney was primarily as a two high safety on the wide (field) side of the field playing underneath coverage using his speed to come forward to cover up receivers and support the run game. You can quickly see that McKinney has explosive speed as he was able to close fast and cover a lot of ground. Late in the game McKinney did a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and jumped a seam route for an easy pick six.
McKinney also saw plenty snaps as a slot cornerback which saw him matched up with both tight end Dawson Knox and receiver AJ Brown. Playing mainly off coverage McKinney showed the ability to quickly flip his hips and then accelerate to run with the receivers. Not only could McKinney accelerate and burst forward but he did show good instincts for a safety playing man coverage and was able to read the routes and continue to keep himself in the right position to make a play on the ball if it were to come.
What We Didn’t See
The big thing that we didn’t get to see during the Mississippi game was McKinney playing back in deep coverage and his ball skills. In Alabama’s defense Deionte Thompson is the free safety so he mainly got those deep looks but having Ole Miss normally in four and five receiver sets it didn’t allow McKinney much time to play deep. Also the ball was only thrown to McKinney’s receiver only twice and both times he really didn’t even have a chance to play the ball. But those are things that we can see when watching other games.
NFL Draft Outlook
Blessed with good speed, explosive movements and aggressiveness, Xavier McKinney has the physical traits to be a successful NFL starting safety. But McKinney’s ability to play both zone and man coverage both back deep and in the slot while showing good instincts put him in to the elite prospect category. Add in that he can play both free and strong safety and there really isn’t a scheme that he cannot fit in. As long as McKinney continues to develop and he can show that he can play back deep and the ball in the air and he could is a first round lock whenever he enters the NFL Draft.