The Falcons have had some unfortunate things happen to them in the secondary the past few seasons, most notably at the safety position. Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal have had numerous injuries which has left the depth, and future, of the position in question. While Allen was able to recover from his Achilles tear two seasons ago, Neal suffered another season-ending injury at the beginning of the 2019 season.
With uncertainty on how Neal will perform coming back and if the Falcons are invested in him, there should be a need at safety going into the draft. The Falcons should look no further than Alabama strong safety Xavier McKinney.
McKinney was a top player on Alabama’s defense, leading the defense with 95 tackles and was one of the nation’s leaders in forced fumbles with four.
McKinney is a versatile player at his position, being able to move around on different positions on the field. His high IQ allows him to quarterback the field similar to a free safety. With size and strength, he’s able to move in the box and play the run and matchup against tight ends. His speed is a plus as well, allowing him to cover the slot against faster receivers.
As a safety, McKinney has to work on his open field tackling and not losing his coverage on plays, which is something he struggled with last season.
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CBS Sports has McKinney ranked No. 17 overall and the first ranked safety on their big board. In a recent CBS Sports mock draft, McKinney is picked with the No. 19 pick with the Las Vegas Raiders (traded pick with Chicago).
PFF’s draft big board has McKinney ranked No. 18. This what they had to say about the junior safety:
“McKinney does it all and does it very well. He’s easily the most complete and versatile safety in the class.”
The Falcons have the No. 16 pick, so there’s a good chance he’ll still be on the board when they’re on the clock. If they do select McKinney, he’ll be able to fit in with a defense that has many holes in the secondary. They could decide to move McKinney to cornerback, which is one of their biggest needs as of now. The Falcons have a history at switching player’s positions, going back to when Allen was signed as a cornerback and moved to safety.
McKinney and Damontae Kazee are two athletic players that could make the Falcons secondary dynamic with two ballhawks, and their versatility would offer different looks on their defense.
If this was to happen, Neal would most likely be on the outside looking in, due to the fact that they’re basically the same type of player. If the Falcons want to get a younger player with longevity at strong safety, McKinney looks like the safe pick at No. 16.