One day after the University of Alabama saw four offensive players drafted in the first round, five defensive players were taken in the second and third rounds.
Much to the surprise of multiple draft experts, several defensive backs were drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and none of them were Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. McKinney’s chance at a first-round pick went down to the final minute, when the Kansas City Chiefs — with defensive needs — elected to take LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire instead.
McKinney would not have to wait long in the second round to hear his name called.
McKinney went No. 36 overall to the New York Giants, the fourth pick of the second round, and cornerback Trevon Diggs was selected with the 51st overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys in Friday’s second and third rounds. A few picks later, UA defensive lineman Raekwon Davis was selected by the Miami Dolphins at No. 56 overall, with former UA quarterback Jalen Hurts coming between them at No. 53 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
McKinney was routinely graded as one of the best safeties in the class, but also viewed as someone who could fall beyond a pick their grade would suggest.
“I think when you look at McKinney, he’s still the best safety,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Did not run as well as you would have hoped, and they play him a lot more close to the line of scrimmage. I have a big grade on him. I like him, but I think there’s a chance he could drift a little bit, and I think teams are saying they kind of like this next wave of safeties that would be there, so if you passed on one in the first round, you come back and I think there’s a thought that (Grant) Delpit, Jeremy Chinn, Antoine Winfield, Kyle Dugger, Ashtyn Davis, there’s some depth there.”
One reason for McKinney’s potential drop was a 4.63 40-yard dash time in the NFL Combine. In a teleconference with Giants reporters, McKinney called that, “really a fake time,” due to cramps. He said he ran as fast as 4.52 seconds in training.
There is a case to be made that both Diggs and Davis were fortunate to have their names called in the second round. Both were viewed as volatile draft prospects when balancing recent performance with athletic potential.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper said of Diggs, “mixed opinions on him.
“Diggs has had some games where he’s been a little inconsistent in terms of his coverage ability. You think about what he can be at the pro level when he’s been coached. I think Diggs is still a work in progress, but the inconsistency has to be eliminated. You see him in the right game you think he’s a late (first-rounder); you see him in a couple of other games, you think he’s a third or fourth round pick.”
Davis had been projected between the second and fourth rounds after underwhelming junior and senior seasons compared to his sophomore season.
In the third round, UA’s starting linebacker tandem of Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings both heard their names called. Lewis was a third-round selection by the Los Angeles Rams and Jennings was taken three picks later by the New England Patriots.
Entering the final four rounds of the draft, UA still has safeties Jared Mayden and Shyheim Carter available for selection, among other players in play for undrafted free agent deals.