NFL cornerbacks come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s a certain archetype that the NFL prizes above all others.
Defenses around the League are constantly on the lookout for corners who are 6-foot (or taller), with long arms, and blazing speed. They want them because those attributes make them better able to execute press-man coverage, which is just more disruptive to opposing offenses. We know that New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale prizes press-man corners very highly, as they allow him to execute his aggressive blitz schemes.
Auburn’s Roger McCreary is one of the best press-man cover corners in the draft despite measuring less that 6-foot, having 28 7/8 inch arms, and having a pedestrian 4.50-second 40 yard dash.
All of that combined could drop him down draft boards despite the ability he has shown on tape.
Could that make McCreary a sleeper to watch for the Giants?
Prospect: Roger McCreary (23)
Games Watched: vs. Penn State (2021), vs. Arkansas (2021), vs. LSU (2021), vs. Alabama (2021 SEC Championship)
Games Played: 39
Tackles For a Loss: 10.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 30
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a Loss: 2.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 14
Best: Feet, hips, ball skills, closing burst, man coverage
Worst: Length, long speed
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme versatility.
(McCreary is Auburn CB number 23)
Roger McCreary is a competitive, athletic, and versatile cover corner prospect from Auburn University.
McCreary primarily played as a perimeter corner, often lining up against opponents’ best receiver. He played in a variety of coverage schemes in Auburn’s defense and often traveled with top receivers across the field. McCreary also primarily played in tight – or press – man coverage, though he also has experience in off-man and zone coverage.
McCreary is a great functional athlete for the position, showing a smooth, compact, and balanced backpedal. He also has good hand usage early in the route in press man coverage, firing a quick jam into receivers’ shoulders to disrupt their timing while avoiding being called for defensive pass interference.
McCreary has very quick feet and fluid hips when he transitions from his backpedal to running downfield with his receiver. He carries his momentum well and changes direction easily without losing his balance. McCreary is great at getting and staying in phase with receivers and staying there throughout the rep. He also shows great field awareness, using the sideline as an extra defender and his own positioning to shrink passing windows.
He has a great closing burst at the catch point and does a good job of knocking the ball away at the last instant. As with his press coverage, McCreary does a good job of playing through the receiver’s hands to impact the catch without drawing pass interference calls.
McCreary is a physical, aggressive defender with a quick trigger to defend plays in the underneath area. He wastes no time coming downhill on running plays or quick passes. He is also a remarkably good tackler for a defensive back. He generally uses good tackling form, wrapping up and driving through ball carriers. Likewise, he is very physical and doesn’t shy away from laying hits when he needs to.
While McCreary is great at knocking the ball away at the catch point, he doesn’t come down on many passes. He only has 6 interceptions through 39 games played.
McCreary is a great athlete who is able to stay with most receivers through their routes, he does have merely “average” long speed which can show up at times. Likewise, he has a significant lack of length compared to the NFL’s ideal for a man coverage corner. McCreary’s lack of length can be a hindrance against particularly big or long receivers. His arm length, in particular, could come in below some teams’ thresholds.
Overall Grade: 7.9
Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary projects as a starting cornerback with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
McCreary has a wealth of experience in press-man, off-man, and zone coverage and has played each technique well. He has a good balance of physicality, athleticism, and discipline in coverage. McCreary does a great job of getting – and staying – in phase with receivers, staying with them throughout their routes, and using his presence and physicality to affect their routes.
McCreary is a very confident cornerback who routinely matches up with opponents top receiving options. He wasn’t often tested when in man coverage with top receivers, and when he was tested, he often came out on top. McCreary was often asked to travel with receivers, and has experience playing on both the left and right sides of the defense, as well as moving into the slot when necessary.
He is also very physical for a cornerback and shows no hesitation in playing downhill out of zone coverage or playing the run.
Perhaps the biggest question with McCreary is how teams will evaluate his length and athleticism. He is a perfectly functional athlete on the field, and able to stay with receivers like Jahan Dotson (Penn State), Jameson Williams, or James Metchie III (Alabama) throughout their routes. However, he does have a less than ideal 40 time, he is below 6-foot, and his arms are undeniably short.
That could knock him down teams’ draft boards if he falls below thresholds for a man-coverage corners.