Xavier McKinney chosen as second-year breakout candidate
Xavier McKinney was forced to miss the first 10 games of his rookie campaign due to a foot injury. The defensive back was able to return following the Week 11 bye and showed enough on the field to garner some positive buzz heading into the 2021 season.
CBS Sports' Josh Edwards selected McKinney as one of his second-year players set to make a big leap next season.
In his six games (four starts), the safety out of Alabama registered 25 tackles (14 solo), one tackle for loss, one interception and one pass defended. He capped off his rookie season with a game-sealing interception of Cowboys QB Andy Dalton in Week 17 to secure the victory for the Giants.
As Edwards writes, "McKinney was my top-rated safety in last year's draft so I am bullish, perhaps stubborn, in regards to his potential. The former Alabama defensive back missed 10 games, but ended the season on a high note with an interception against Dallas. One would think upgrading the pass rush is a priority for the Giants this offseason, and that only means more turnover opportunities for McKinney."
The Giants selected McKinney in the second round (36th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. While at Alabama, the safety earned First-Team All-SEC honors in 2019 and was named the Defensive MVP of the 2018 Orange Bowl. He was also part of Alabama's 2017 CFP National Championship team.
PFF picks Giants as best fit for Jaylen Waddle
The 2021 NFL Draft is considered by many draft experts to be deep at several positions, including at wide receiver.
Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash took a look at the analytic site's top 10 wide receivers available in this year's draft and connected them with each prospect's best landing spot. For Alabama's Jaylen Waddle, one of the top three receivers in this year's draft class, Treash believes the Giants are the best fit.
Waddle appeared in just six games this past season after breaking his foot in October. He finished the year with 28 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns on his way to being named Second-Team All-SEC.
In his breakout sophomore campaign, Waddle caught 33 passes for 560 yards and six touchdowns. He also averaged 24.4 yards per punt return with one touchdown and 35.0 yards per kickoff return with an additional touchdown in 2019, and was named First-Team All-SEC and SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. Waddle was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018 after registering 848 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Remember when everyone was oozing over Henry Ruggs' 4.27-second 40-yard dash? Well, his former teammate Waddle possesses that same kind of speed," Treash writes. "The two raced before the 2019 season at Alabama and practically tied. Speed kills in the NFL, and Waddle has speed in abundance.
"Waddle played just four games in 2020 before suffering a broken ankle, but he still racked up 329 deep receiving yards over those contests, 14th among Power 5 wide receivers for the entire season. The Bama pass-catcher has turned over 40% of his targets into an explosive reception of 15-plus yards since 2019, the highest rate in the Power 5 by over two percentage points. Waddle is a threat to house it anytime he gets the ball in his hands and can get behind defenses with ease."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.
NFL.com's top 101 free agents of 2021
Check out the gallery below to view photos of every player on NFL.com's list of the top 101 free agents of 2021.
View NFL.com's updated rankings of the top 101 free agents of 2021 ahead of the new league year, which begins March 17.