Sometimes in the NFL Draft process, it can be hard to mix a player’s production and their profile. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the scouting report of Auburn CB Roger McCreary presents this quandary. McCreary was one of the best cornerbacks in college football over the past two seasons. But at the same time, there are potential physical limitations that may lower his ceiling at the next level. Here’s an in-depth look at how McCreary translates.
Roger McCreary NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Auburn
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11 3/8″
- Weight: 190 pounds
- Wingspan: 70 5/8″
- Length: 28 7/8″
- Hand: 9″
McCreary’s Combine/pro day results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.5
- Bench Press: 19
- Broad Jump: 9′8″
- Vertical Jump: 31.5″
- Three-Cone: 6.96
- Short Shuttle: 4.29
Roger McCreary Scouting Report
Playing cornerback in the SEC, at the top of the college football pantheon, you’ll learn very quickly if you have what it takes. Every week, it’s a battle against four and five-star receivers with high-end athleticism and natural talent. The cornerbacks often match that physical talent on the other side. McCreary is a bit smaller, and perhaps a bit less athletic — but more often than not, it didn’t matter.
McCreary wasn’t known for being smaller in college. Instead, he was known for locking down his side and being a dangerous player for quarterbacks to test. But the question isn’t whether or not McCreary was successful in college. The question now is whether or not he can translate at the NFL level. That, of course, requires a look at the tape.
McCreary’s athletic profile
It’s becoming more and more essential for cornerbacks to move well at the NFL level. At the very least, McCreary checks this box. The Auburn CB measures in at 5’11 3/8″, 190 pounds, and has great athleticism for his size. He’s a twitchy mover who quickly bursts out of transitions. McCreary can sink his hips into direction changes and explode toward the ball, and he’s a sudden athlete as well. He changes directions quickly, explodes laterally pedaling, and has a constant energy to his game.
On top of his twitchiness, McCreary is explosive and fluid. The Auburn CB gears up with little delay and can close quickly on plays once he keys in. He’s an energetic short-strider, and with those fast, quick strides, he can accelerate and erase separation, as well as disrupt the passing lane when trailing. He surely shows more burst on tape than what he tested with.
McCreary’s fluidity helps him position himself as well. The Auburn CB has snappy, fluid hips that he smoothly opens out of his pedal to accelerate upfield.
McCreary’s long speed isn’t elite — likely due to his short strides — but he does have enough long speed to carry most receivers downfield and stick in hip pockets. Additionally, the Auburn CB can maintain tackling angles and surge into players with his twitch and lateral agility. His mobility allows for all-around versatility. McCreary can be an effective defender both in the slot and on the boundary, and he played safety in high school.
Execution beyond the physical traits
McCreary is a skilled athlete and a skilled player on top of that. The Tigers defender channels his athleticism with strong feet. With his footwork, he mirrors receivers well at the line. His feet are smooth and detailed but also have a fast tempo. Moreover, he adjusts that tempo, as well as his stride lengths, based on the situation.
Going further, McCreary flashes solid awareness. The Auburn product has good route-recognition ability. He processes fairly quickly and peels off underneath routes to pick up players sneaking downfield.
In coverage downfield, McCreary understands leverage and is able to pinch receivers close to the sideline. He also has the awareness to turn back inside when he sees receivers enter his blind spot. McCreary generally positions himself well in two-on-one situations, and his eyes help with that. He stays keyed in on the quarterback but can also shift his focus to the ball when it’s in the air.
For his size, McCreary has great ball skills. He plays bigger than his frame and has shown he can track the ball and time his extensions accurately. He’s a terrific competitor and gives maximum effort when attacking the catch point. That physical energy shows up in all phases. The Auburn CB has shown he’s willing to lower his shoulder and square up against runners, as well as exact physicality on blockers. He’s combative against blocks, and he consistently fights to disengage.
Areas for improvement
There’s a lot to like with McCreary, but there are also notable limitations. Most notably, his length is quantifiability poor, impacting him in several ways. McCreary’s length can be detrimental when trying to jam receivers at the line in press and when competing against larger receivers. It also somewhat limits his playmaking range when playing the ball and can impact his ability to wrap up as a tackler.
On top of his length, there are also some imperfections with McCreary’s mobility profile. While he generally scores well in that department, his short strides prevent him from having elite long speed. Additionally, McCreary’s weight transfers breaking back to the ball can be smoother. He sometimes gets caught flat-footed and loses positioning.
Expanding on positioning, the Tigers defender can occasionally be late to react to in-breaking routes, which gives too much cushion. Occasionally, he takes wider angles than ideal when reacting to inside breaks. There are instances where he reads and reacts to the QB’s eyes better and takes better pursuit angles to the football. He also sometimes overshoots tackling angles coming downhill in run support.
Among other things, McCreary — like many young cornerbacks — is prone to miscommunication on the back end at times. Furthermore, he can get a little grabby with his hands when he loses a step on receivers.
McCreary’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
McCreary’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report is an interesting one. The Auburn CB clearly has the skill set of an NFL starter — that’s something we’ll get out of the way quickly. He’s twitchy, fairly explosive, fluid, and physical at the point. Additionally, he has inside-outside versatility. For McCreary, the question isn’t whether or not he can start. It’s how much upside he has in that role.
While McCreary is strong mentally, he can still iron out some finer points. His below-average length is a big dampener on his stock. He mitigates that concern somewhat with his ball skills and aggressive proactivity. However, football is ultimately a game of inches, and if his arms are 1-2 inches shorter than the average CB, that’s enough for him to come up short on some close plays.
As concerning as it is, McCreary can survive without elite length — although it may rule him out for some teams, especially ones that employ more true press. He’s still a great athlete who has strong pre-snap recognition and instincts, with quick twitch, burst, and a fast play pace.
But in a class filled with large, athletic cornerbacks at the top, McCreary might be more of a Day 2 prospect. Nevertheless, in that range, he could wind up being a steal with boundary-slot versatility.
McCreary’s Player Profile
There’s a definite correlation between talent and NFL Draft capital for players, but it’s not a given that the four and five-star prospects will monopolize the draft board. The process has a way of respecting the grinders — the guys who put in the work day in and day out and don’t settle for less.
McCreary has been that guy for Auburn, and he was that guy for the coaches at Lillie B. Williamson High School. In his senior season, McCreary notched 8 interceptions and over 100 tackles. In spite of his production, he was only a three-star recruit in the 2018 class and just the 65th-best player at his position.
Nevertheless, McCreary still generated interest from FBS programs. The Mobile, Alabama, product received an offer from his hometown South Alabama Jaguars, as well as UAB, Tulane, and Western Kentucky. McCreary originally committed to South Alabama, but when Auburn unexpectedly showed interest, McCreary quickly pounced on his chance to play in the SEC.
His career at Auburn
For a three-star kid from Alabama, the move to Auburn was a bit of an adjustment. McCreary switched from safety to cornerback and was mostly a reserve as a true freshman. He notched 5 total tackles but came back in 2019 with fairly little starting experience. That was set to change, however.
McCreary put in arduous film work, honed his craft in practice, and emerged as a playmaker for Auburn’s defense. Even without a full-time starting role, McCreary managed to amass 36 tackles, an interception, 9 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery as a sophomore. That production helped earn him a starting job in 2020. He was a mainstay in the secondary as a junior, tacking on 3 more picks and 6 more deflections, as well as 7 tackles for loss.
McCreary set a high bar for himself in 2019 and 2020, but 2021 would go on to be the Auburn CB’s most productive year yet. Starting all 12 games in the regular season, McCreary accumulated 49 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a sack, 2 interceptions — including a pick-six — and 14 pass deflections.
McCreary led the SEC conference in pass deflections as a senior. Thus, it was no surprise when he earned first-team All-SEC recognition among the conference’s postseason honors.
McCreary’s NFL Draft ascension
McCreary has quietly been one of the most productive cornerbacks in college football over the past three seasons. Across that span, McCreary has 6 interceptions and 29 pass deflections to his name. Not only has he produced, but he’s proven he can do it from multiple spots. That versatility, among other things, will be key in securing McCreary’s stock. And he got a chance to display it at the Senior Bowl in early February.
McCreary isn’t a perfect prospect, but he appears to have enough in his toolbox to win without elite length. That below-average length would theoretically cause problems in press coverage and at the catch point. But more often than not, McCreary has proven physical enough and adept enough with his timing to compensate.
At this point, after testing a bit worse than expected and measuring in with 28 7/8″ arms, McCreary is likely a Day 2 pick at best. But in that range, if he’s still on the board in Round 3, he’d be a great value. His length may push him inside to the slot at the next level, but he can be a starter there with his physicality, footwork, and playmaking ability.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Roger McCreary
Positives: Polished cornerback with outstanding instincts and ball skills. Plays with great awareness, knows where he is on the field, and does a great job communicating with teammates in the secondary. Plays faster than his 40 time, runs downfield with opponents, and consistently positions himself against receivers to make plays on the ball.
Tracks the pass in the air, displays an outstanding move to the throw, and possesses a quick closing burst. Fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth flipping his hips, and explodes out of his plant to get to the action. Patient, effectively times pass defenses, and does not have mental lapses on the field. Forceful on the blitz and gives effort against the run.
Negatives: Not a big-bodied cornerback and has short arms. Lacks a second gear.
Analysis: McCreary is a talented cornerback with next-level ball skills who consistently played smart, tough football. He played very well against Alabama last season and helped shut down Crimson Tide receiver Jameson Williams. He’s a polished prospect who could start at nickelback or as a No. 2 cornerback in certain schemes.