Editor’s Note: The third round of the NFL Draft was still underway at press time for the Opelika-Auburn News.
TUSCALOOSA — Whether it was the blond streak in his hair or the self-drawn cartoon tattoos that line his body, Xavier McKinney has always managed to stick out — even within Alabama’s defense.
“It was just like something that really kept me level-headed,” McKinney told 247Sports.com last season. “I found my peace with it. Something in my free time, if I wasn’t doing anything or maybe if I was stressed about something then I would just start drawing and put on some music. It relaxed me, so I kept doing it, and eventually, I realized I was actually pretty good at it.”
For the last two years, McKinney has been a staple in the Crimson Tide secondary, roaming in coverage or creeping near the line of scrimmage, as the versatile strong safety repeatedly made his mark all across the field.
Now he’ll have the chance to do that in the NFL after McKinney was selected by the New York Giants at No. 36 overall in the top half of the second round Friday on Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Roughly an hour later, fellow Alabama defensive back Trevon Diggs became the second Crimson Tide selection Friday when the Dallas Cowboys took the 6-foot-2 corner as the 51st overall pick in Round 2. Former defensive end Raekwon Davis followed shortly after when the Miami Dolphins dipped back into the Alabama talent pool with the 56th overall pick in the back half of the second round Friday.
Davis’ selection helped Alabama tie rival LSU with a draft-record seven players from the same school drafted in the first two rounds Friday. Davis followed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall, Miami), offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (No. 10, Cleveland Browns), receivers Henry Ruggs III (No. 12, Las Vegas Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (No. 15, Denver Broncos), McKinney (No. 35, New York Giants) and Diggs (No. 51, Dallas Cowboys).
Davis, Diggs and McKinney 57th, 56th and 55th Crimson Tide players selected in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2010, with several more expected throughout Friday.
McKinney follows in the lofty footsteps of fellow former Crimson Tide safeties like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mark Barron, Landon Collins and, more recently, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Of those, Collins was the lone second-round pick as the No. 33 overall selection by the Giants in 2015, while Clinton-Dix, Barron and Fitzpatrick were all first round selections.
After having four players taken in the Top 15 of Round 1 on Thursday, McKinney led three more former Crimson Tide players taken on Day 2 with
The followed Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5, Miami Dolphins), offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (No. 10, Cleveland Browns), receivers Henry Ruggs III (No. 12, Las Vegas Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (No. 15, Denver Broncos).
A two-year starter at strong safety, McKinney started all 28 games over the past two seasons at Alabama, capping his three-year Tide career with 176 total tackles, 13 for loss, 15 pass breakups, six sacks and five interceptions during that time.
Meanwhile, Diggs followed in his older brother Stefon’s footsteps into the NFL.
Stefon Diggs, a six-year pro entering his first year with the Buffalo Bills, stepped up at 14 years old to helped raise Trevon and middle brother Mar’Sean after their father, Aron Diggs, died in January 2008 at 39 years old due to congestive heart failure. Trevon and Mar’Sean, who were 9 and 12 at the time.
“He’s like my dad, honestly. He was there for me when my father passed, so he’s always taken care of me,” Trevon told NFL.com earlier this year. “I’ve always asked him about everything, no matter what. At 2 o’clock in the morning, I’m asking him questions. I called him last night ... every day. I’m asking him about his experiences, his process, how he manages. There are a lot of things I ask him.”
As a second-round pick, Trevon has bragging rights over Stefon, who was a fifth-round selection of the Minnesota Vikings in 2015. Stefon Diggs was traded to the Buffalo Bills this offseason for a first-round pick the Vikings used to take LSU receiver Justin Jefferson on Thursday night
After originally coming to Tuscaloosa as a receiver, Diggs finished his injury-plagued Alabama career with 68 total tackles, 17 pass breakups and four interceptions in four seasons, starting the last two on the outside.
A potential mid-round pick as a junior, the 6-foot-7, 311-pound Davis returned to Alabama for his senior season in order to complete his undergraduate degree and become the first in his family to graduate from college.
“That’s a 10 for me. It’s great for me,” Davis said in December. “Where I’m from, most people don’t graduate, don’t even see a D-I school. … Nobody can take that (degree) away from me. Football can end at any time, but you’ll still have one thing you can fall back on.”
Davis finished his four-year Crimson Tide career with 175 total tackles, 18.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks, with his best season coming as a sophomore in 2017 when he led the team with 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 69 total tackles.
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