Alabama star Xavier McKinney is rated by several experts as the best safety in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he's an intriguing option for the New England Patriots with the 23rd overall pick in the first round.
McKinney told reporters Friday that he had a formal interview with the Patriots at this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Our Patriots insider Phil Perry actually had McKinney going to the Patriots in his first 2020 mock draft last month. Here's what he wrote about McKinney's potential fit in New England:
The Patriots have so many avenues to pursue come draft weekend. Quarterback? Sure, if Jarrett Stidham (who has impressed behind the scenes) isn't ready to take the reigns and if Tom Brady is out. Tight end? Of course, though there don't appear to be any surefire first-rounders there this spring. How about safety?
That's where I could envision McKinney (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) sliding in. He's a do-it-all type for the Crimson Tide. He plays in the box. He blitzes. He covers tight ends, which has been a problem for the Patriots at times this year. He led Alabama in tackles this year, forced four fumbles, picked off three passes and broke up five more. With Patrick Chung closer to the end than the beginning, perhaps McKinney could someday fill that type of role. A versatile, tough, consistently-productive two-year starter and first-team SEC defensive back who studied under Nick Saban? That'd be worth a first-round choice for Bill Belichick.
The Patriots had one of the league's best secondaries last season, but adding some youth to the group makes a lot of sense. Veteran safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are both 32 years old. McCourty will be an unrestricted free agent in March unless he and the team agree to a new deal beforehand.
It's also possible McKinney could just be the best player available at No. 23, and even though the Patriots have more pressing roster needs than safety, it's not easy to pass on a player as talented as McKinney, especially when you also factor in the amount of high-pressure games he's played in at Alabama.
The Patriots have selected five Alabama players since 2010, and four of them were on defense, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower.