5 NY Giants breakout candidates: Xavier McKinney becomes a star?

Tight end Dan Arnold #85 of the Arizona Cardinals makes a catch against safety Xavier McKinney #29 of the New York Giants (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Tight end Dan Arnold #85 of the Arizona Cardinals makes a catch against safety Xavier McKinney #29 of the New York Giants (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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The NY Giants’ roster features several young players capable of breakout seasons in 2021, but Xavier McKinney has the talent and opportunity to be a star on defense

There might not have been more optimism surrounding a recent draft pick by the NY Giants, than when Xavier McKinney was chosen in the second-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

McKinney was widely viewed inside the NFL as the premier safety prospect coming out of Alabama, but slid to the NY Giants early in the second-round, where general manager Dave Gettleman stopped the defensive back’s fall.

A Swiss-army knife in the secondary, McKinney has the ability to play safety or drop into the slot, as he did down the stretch of his rookie season.

In the days leading up to training camp beginning for the Giants, we’ll examine five players who could be on the cusp of a breakout season in 2021.

Unfortunately for the NY Giants, the organization saw only glimpses of McKinney’s potential, after a foot injury suffered late in training camp kept the Alabama alum sidelined until the final six games of the season.

McKinney, though, quickly made up for lost time.

In six games, McKinney produced 25 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup, and intercepted a pivotal pass in the NY Giants’ season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

This year, McKinney could elevate his game to an even higher level.

Here’s a look at why Xavier McKinney has a chance to breakout and elevate his game to the next level, why he might not, and our verdict on what to expect from the NY Giants’ safety  this season:

Why McKinney will breakout:

McKinney proved once he was finally healthy enough to get on the field late last season, that he belonged in the starting lineup.

Pro Football Focus gave McKinney an impressive 70 overall grade, and points out that opposing quarterbacks were held to a meager 40.2 passer rating when targeting him last season.

That sort of lockdown production over the latter half of the season gives plenty of optimism that McKinney can become one of the more dominant players in an improved NY Giants secondary.

What will help McKinney stay on the field in his sophomore season is the fact that he has position fluidity to play either safety position or the nickel cornerback. NY Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham frequency deploys three safeties, and given that New York now features James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson on the perimeter, quarterbacks may be more inclined to throw at McKinney … Which could prove to be less advantageous than they’d hope.