The NY Giants’ defense made significant strides in 2020, even without Xavier McKinney, the highest-drafted defender in last year’s NFL Draft class taking the field until Week 13.
McKinney, chosen by the NY Giants with the No. 36 overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft, showed flashes of his playmaking ability in the secondary down the stretch, including pulling down a clutch interception in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite playing only six games as a rookie, McKinney produced 25 total tackles, including one tackle for loss, with one pass breakups and one interception in four games after returning from a fractured foot suffered in training camp.
McKinney should walk into the NY Giants’ starting free safety role alongside Jabrill Peppers when 2021 begins, and Pro Football Focus has high expectations for the Alabama alum in his second season, listing McKinney as the Giants’ top breakout candidate:
"Xavier McKinney was a poor man’s Isaiah Simmons in the last NFL draft. While Simmons went in the top 10, McKinney slipped to the second round despite bringing much of the same versatility. He was then injured and missed much of his rookie season but finished with an overall PFF grade of 70.0 with his best two games in the final three weeks of play. McKinney didn’t get much of a chance to shine as a rookie, but Year 2 could show a player that deserved a lot more credit at draft time."
When Giants GM Dave Gettleman chose McKinney in the second round, many viewed him as one of the steals as the draft as several scouts and teams across the NFL gave him a first-round grade.
The Giants’ passing defense allowed 237.9 yards per game and 22 touchdowns last season, but if McKinney takes the expected leap in his second season, this is a group that could make great strides in 2021.