In case you missed the 2019 season, the Philadelphia Eagles could use some help in the secondary. Despite having one of the better front sevens in the league, the Eagles defense couldn’t stop anything through the air. The unit could use an infusion of talent all across the back end, and Alabama Crimson Tide safety Xavier McKinney could be the perfect fit in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft Targets: Xavier McKinney
Xavier McKinney is one of the most versatile players in the upcoming draft and is capable of filling multiple needs at once. While he’s at his best at free safety, the Alabama product can also play strong safety and slot cornerback at a high level. His versatility is invaluable in today’s NFL, and his ability to do a little bit of everything means he never needs to leave the field.
Not only can McKinney do a little bit of everything, but he can do certain things at a very high level. There isn’t anyone better in the draft class at playing “center field” and taking away the deep pass. McKinney has an advanced ability to recognize and diagnose opposing route patterns and the lateral speed to break up passes over the top.
Additionally, McKinney can be effectively utilized as a blitzer. While he’s not Jamal Adams, McKinney excels at coming down, finding the hole in the blocking scheme, and getting to the quarterback. Most of his best traits are reliant upon his impressive football IQ, and that should translate from the college level to the NFL.
Xavier McKinney is a great prospect, but he’s not without flaws. While he is a good athlete, he’s not an elite one. If aiming for nothing other than upside, Grant Delpit is probably the better safety prospect. Additionally, McKinney leaves a little something to be desired as a run defender. While he can go down in the box and play at a high level, he misses more tackles than you’d like.
While McKinney is good at diagnosing route patterns and identifying plays, he sometimes takes too long to trust his instincts and make a play. These late breaks sometimes lead to completions that should be pass breakups.
Additionally, McKinney’s relative lack of top-level speed can be a problem when baiting quarterbacks. McKinney can’t close on large windows, and that can be something of a problem against stronger-armed quarterbacks. This issue could compound in the NFL, since everyone has a strong arm and might be able to take advantage of McKinney’s distrust of his own instincts.
Xavier McKinney Fit on the Philadelphia Eagles
Ultimately, these are all nitpicks. There is a lot more to like than dislike when it comes to Xavier McKinney. The tackling issue is legitimate, but it shouldn’t be too big of an issue in today’s pass-heavy NFL. The distrust of instincts, meanwhile, can be coached away over time. If Doug Pederson and company can convey to McKinney that he should trust what he sees, then he should be able to eliminate the aforementioned flaws out of his game.
Safety isn’t the most pressing need for Philadelphia, but McKinney is a tough talent to pass up. The Eagles could sign Byron Jones in free agency, draft a receiver in the second round, and take McKinney in the first. Just like that, the Eagles will have addressed all their major needs and enter 2020 with a championship-caliber roster.
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