EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Xavier McKinney refuses to operate under self-imposed restrictions.
The Giants' second-round draft choice brings a full tool box to the safety position. He can surge forward to tackle a running back at the line of scrimmage. McKinney can stay stride-for-stride with a tight end running up the seam. He can line up in the slot. McKinney is seldom fooled and possesses the ability to sniff out the play and attack the ball.
The 6-1, 200-pounder from Alabama can do so many things on a football field, he can't choose a favorite.
"I like doing it all," McKinney said soon after the Giants selected him No. 36 overall. "I like playing as many positions as I can on the field. I just like making plays for my teammates and helping my team be successful. So for me, that's pretty much my main goal."
One of the first comments general manager Dave Gettleman said about McKinney was, "He certainly is versatile."
How versatile? Despite playing in the back of the defense, he actually had more career sacks (6.0) than interceptions (five). McKinney knocked down 20 passes and also forced five fumbles. He totaled 176 tackles (108 solo), including 13 for a loss.
"I just try to make as many plays for my team as I can," McKinney said. "I like to put my teammates in the best position possible in whatever way that I can to help the team be successful in any part of the game. Whether that's special teams, whether that's playing on defense, wherever it is, I try to make sure I put my teammates in the best possible situation that we can be in. I do pride myself on being a playmaker.
"As far as what I can provide for the team, it really is whatever coach wants me to do. I always do what's asked of me, and I try to do it at a high level. So, whatever I'm asked to do, I'll adapt to it and I'll be able to do it."
McKinney's only bit of disappointment on the night he was drafted is that it wasn't 24 hours earlier. He hoped and expected to be selected in the first round. But he's very happy where he landed.
"Very surprised," he said of not being one of the first 32 players chosen. "Of course, I thought I was going to get drafted yesterday, but you know, it is what it is. I'm happy to be a Giant and that's all that matters right now."
View photos of former Alabama S Xavier McKinney.
McKinney had cramping issues at the scouting combine and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds, not a particularly rapid time for a safety. He did not get a second chance to run in front of scouts because Alabama, like most schools, had to cancel its pro day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But both the Giants and he insist the time is not reflective of what he can and will do on the field.
"Very frankly, I've said it to our scouts, it's how fast does a guy play?" Gettleman said. "It's about how he carries his pads. It's not what he does in his underwear on a track, it's play speed. Way back in the day when San Francisco had their unbelievable run and Bill Walsh was running that club, they were not in a scouting combine. They did not care what a guy ran. They talked about play speed all the time. I think it worked pretty well for them. I am a big believer in that, it's about how fast does a guy play. If it was just about 40-yard dash times, then we would go watch track meets."
"I don't know how much it hurt me," McKinney said. "To be honest, I really don't care that much about the 40 anyways. Like I've said before, my tape says it all. It's something that outweighs the 40 anyways because, of course, I play way faster than what that 40 said. But when I did run the 40, I did have cramps. A lot of it was due to just the setup of how the combine was. Things that I wasn't necessarily prepared for or didn't really know how the schedule would be. But you know, it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. Like I've said before, I'm excited for this moment and I'm excited to be a Giant."
McKinney, who is 20, could join Jabrill Peppers, 24, to form the Giants' starting safety tandem for many years. Shortly after McKinney was drafted, Peppers reached out to him on Twitter. The players have similar attributes.
"I actually followed him when he was coming out because he was also a safety that played a lot of positions in college," McKinney said. "I'm a big fan of his, I watch his games. … I'm excited and I'm ready to see what's in store for me when I get up to New York."