Xavier McKinney’s junior season, complete with All-American honors, was his last for the University of Alabama.
The safety announced his intent to enter the 2020 NFL Draft Sunday, skipping his senior season in the process. McKinney exits UA after a historic season: first on the team in tackles (95), sixth in tackles for a loss (5 1/2), fourth in sacks (three), second in interceptions (three), fourth in pass breakups (five), third in quarterback hurries (five) and first in forced fumbles (four, the 17th player in UA history to have that many).
McKinney’s role on this defense was particularly vital this season in his ability to switch between deep safety and Money. His movement enabled Shyheim Carter to stay at Star and Patrick Surtain II to stay at corner, while enabling freshman defensive back Jordan Battle to enter the game only in situations that behooved him, as a deep safety in Dime packages.
Given the All-American nods, McKinney is viewed as one of the best safeties in the nation, and thus one of the best safeties in the 2020 NFL Draft. Safety has not been a premium position in recent drafts — eight first-round safeties in the last three drafts combined — and McKinney shares a draft with Georgia’s J.R. Reed, potentially LSU’s Grant Delpit and others, which could negatively impact his selection.
UA is now losing four of its five starters in the secondary, with cornerback Trevon Diggs also entering the 2020 NFL Draft in addition to the exit of seniors Carter and Jared Mayden. The lone returning starter is Surtain II.
McKinney joins Jerry Jeudy and Jedrick Wills Jr. in leaving UA a year early to be in the 2020 draft.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson