The 2022 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with cornerback talent. There are the headliners like Andrew Booth Jr., Derek Stingley Jr., Kaiir Elam, and Ahmad Gardner. But even after them, there’s plenty of high-level talent and depth to discuss. One such player in that group is Auburn CB Roger McCreary, whose strong play this year has helped elevate his NFL Draft scouting report.
Roger McCreary NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Auburn
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 190 pounds
Roger McCreary Scouting Report
The Auburn defense is quietly a haven for future NFL Draft talent, and McCreary may be the uppermost member of the group. McCreary had a phenomenal 2021 campaign and showed up in some of the year’s biggest moments. With the SEC being the gauntlet that it is at receiver, he had his ups and downs at times. But overall, it was a proving season for the Auburn CB, who’s fallen under the radar in this class at times.
Now, with the draft quickly approaching and the 2021 regular season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to revisit McCreary’s stock. Where does he fall in with this stacked cornerback class? How high can he go, and what might keep him from rising to the top of the group?
Roger 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 6’0″, 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.
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 playstyle 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 below average, 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 backend at times. Furthermore, he can get a little grabby with his hands when he loses a step on receivers.
Roger 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, 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.
Roger 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.
McCreary’s 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.
Roger 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’ll get a chance to show it off 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.
The first round might be a bit too high for McCreary in mock drafts, as his length will automatically rule him out for certain departments. But suppose he can win over a team back home in Mobile with his physicality, competitive toughness, and athleticism. In that case, he can easily be an early-round pick and an early starter.