It never hurts to add more depth to your secondary, which is why the Detroit Lions should look to bolster their back four in the draft.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist like third-year head coach Matt Patricia to figure out that the Detroit Lions secondary was mediocre at best in 2019. The Lions fielded the worst passing defense in the entire NFL last season, allowing an average of 284.4 yards per game.
It’s pretty hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so Patricia will likely have his guys play the same amount of man coverage in 2020, if not more. While it can be effective in healthy doses, it takes a lot of energy out of defensive backs.
With as much as Patricia relies on man coverage, it wouldn’t hurt to draft another safety who can bolster the unit, giving it depth and injury insurance.
When the regular season came to a close this January, Solomon Wilcots of Pro Football Focus ranked the 32 coverage units in the NFL. Much to the chagrin of Detroit Lions fans, the secondary in the Motor City came in at 28th.
Head coach Matt Patricia asked his defensive backs to play 347 total snaps of man coverage in 2019, the most of any defense in the NFL, but that did not go as well as he would have likely hoped. Darius Slay (56.9 coverage grade), Rashaan Melvin (47.3) Justin Coleman (59.1), Tavon Wilson (73.7) and Tracy Walker (76.0) combined to allow 149 first downs from 365 combined targets in coverage, and they gave up a passer rating of 105.5 in the process.
In his most recent seven-round mock, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had the Lions drafting Alabama safety Xavier McKinney with the 35th overall pick.
Logan Lamorandier of Sports Illustrated’s LionMaven agreed with the pick, saying that while it’s likely McKinney won’t fall to the second round, it would be wise for the Lions to draft him if he falls since Patricia loves to play three safeties at the same time, and McKinney is a well-rounded safety who has drawn comparisons to Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
McKinney more than proofed his capability in the 1,848 snaps he racked up in three seasons in Alabama, as according to PFF, he got grades above 90 in both pass rushing and coverage, and also showed improvement in every discernible facet from 2018 to 2019.
In 32 games over three years, McKinney racked up 175 total tackles, 5 interceptions, and 13.0 tackles for loss. He also proved effective on a safety blitz, putting up 6.0 sacks in his final two seasons.
Fitzpatrick, Landon Collins, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Dre Kirkpatrick are just a few examples of former Alabama secondary members who have found success in the NFL.
Xavier McKinney has a good chance to join that list, as with his ideal NFL size, speed on the edge in defending the run game, and versatility, he can carve out a solid NFL career for himself. If he falls past Day 1 of the draft, the Detroit Lions would be foolish not to scoop him up.