While cornerback may not be the Las Vegas Raiders' most pressing need heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, it is a spot that needs to be addressed and this year’s class includes plenty of top-end talent at the position. Auburn’s Roger McCreary is among one of the several impressive cornerback prospects and should be available when the Raiders pick in the first round.
CB | Auburn | 5’ 11” and 189 pounds | Mobile, AL | February 10th, 2000 (22.0)
Roger McCreary came to Auburn as a three-star recruit and the No. 58 corner in the country for the 2018 class, per 247 Sports. He played sparingly as a true freshman and was in the rotation as a sophomore before taking over a starting spot as a junior and senior. The Mobile native primarily lined up at wide corner in the Tiger’s defense that used a blend of zone and man coverages, and allowed a 51.9 percent completion percentage, with six interceptions, 29 pass breakups and 135 total tackles in his college career.
- When jamming in press coverage, he gets his hands to the wide receiver’s chest and has enough strength to disrupt the receiver’s path
- He’s patient at the line of scrimmage, doesn’t bit on head/shoulder fakes and waits until the wideout commits to open his hips and run
- Pretty good speed and fluid hips to turn and run in soft press coverage
- In the five-yard window, he uses his hands to slow down receivers and stays on balance after the release to help stay in-phase
- Plays more physical near the goal-line to help defend against slants and back shoulder throws
- Smooth and fast back pedaler to maintain cushion when playing off or as the deep third defender in cover three
- His hip mobility allows him to execute tight baseball turns if the receiver attacks his leverage and gets him to open his hips in the opposite direction of the route
- Recognizes pick routes and has the agility to avoid getting picked
- Very good speed overall to cover deep routes and play man coverage in a trail position
- Does a good job of using his hands and sinking his hips to stay in phase on curl routes
- Nice balance to stay on his feet when receivers get physical at the top of their routes
- Does a pretty good job of recognizing when to pass off and pick up wideouts in zone coverage, which should translate well in a pattern-match scheme
- He has good eye discipline in zone coverage, he knows when to key the quarterback and find the pass-catchers coming into his area, which helps to avoid biting on double moves
- Understands spacing when playing zone in the red zone, he doesn’t just work for depth and uses the backline and sideline as his friends to help cover deeper routes.
- Recognizes when there are no threats to his area and ROBOTs to help teammates in coverage
- Solid at clicking and closing on receivers, he stays within his tube when changing direction and makes contact right after the ball gets there, which helps prevent YAC
- When his back is to the quarterback and he’s not in phase, he looks to play the receiver's hands and has the strength to rake the ball out at the catch point
- When facing the quarterback, he uses his arms well by keeping ahold of the receiver with his inside arm and using his outside arm to swat the ball away with good timing to get pass breakups. His timing and technique help hide his lack of arm length.
- Understands where he fits in, in run fits, and isn’t afraid to get involved against the run
- Physical when taking on blocks and has the strength and use of hands to get off wideout’s blocks with ease. He also has the quickness to avoid open-field/perimeter blocks.
- Takes deep angles in pursuit and stays under control to avoid overpursuing
- Aims for the ball carrier’s thighs, brings his hands and has some power when tackling
Areas of Improvement:
- Doesn’t have the strength to hold medium to bigger receivers or tight ends at the line of scrimmage
- He overplays the outside against inside releases in press coverage, and he will get caught flat-footed since he doesn’t keep his feet buzzing
- Could afford to be more aggressive when jamming
- Against ins and outs, he struggles to stay in-phase when he doesn’t get hands on the receiver at the line of scrimmage because he’s a tick slow getting in and out of his breaks. This is also very problematic against whip routes.
- Bites a little too hard on play action fakes when playing man coverage
- In off coverage, he doesn’t use a leverage step and lets the receiver get to square and have a two-way go
- With his back to the quarterback in a trail position, he will fall for head/shoulder fakes on drag routes, and he’ll panic against elite speed receivers with the ball in the air, making contact a little early and drawing pass interference penalties. He also doesn’t turn his head and locate the ball when he’s in phase.
- Isn’t a natural hands catcher for interceptions
- Did miss nine tackles (14.5 percent) as a senior, per PFF (he only missed eight in the previous two years combined, though)
- Measured in with 29.25” arms, which could diminish some of his ball skills at the next level. That’s in the bottom 25-percentile for cornerbacks
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 32nd, 1st round
To me, the only thing that will keep McCreay out of the first round is if teams view this cornerback class as extremely deep and opt to address another position and grab one later. That could easily happen, but he has all of the tools teams should be looking for from a prospect with a pick in the 20s or later.
With Casey Hayward set to hit free agency next month and Trayvon Mullen playing on the last year of his rookie contract, the Auburn product should certainly be on the table for the Raiders. He’s excellent in zone coverage and has the ball skills to play a James Bradberry-like role in Patrick Graham’s scheme.
What do we need to know?
How much will his arm length — or lack thereof — impact his ball skills in the NFL? I was honestly surprised with how short McCreary’s arms measured in at the Senior Bowl because he used them so well in college. His technique could help him overcome that deficiency at the next level as well, however, that will remain an unknown until he starts going up against quarterbacks with pinpoint accuracy. Being able to recover with pass breakups is a big part of McCreary’s game, so short arms could be his undoing as a pro.
Fit with the Raiders:
As mentioned above, the Auburn product is a potential first-round option for Las Vegas. Depending on what happens with Hayward, McCreary might not fill one of the team’s immediate needs, but he can at least serve as a third corner in year one and step into a starting spot in year two. Cornerback is usually a position that takes a season or two for young players to get adjusted to the speed of the NFL, so it’s important to stay ahead of the curve at that spot to avoid being forced to throw a young player in the fire early on.
I’m a fan of Roger McCreay’s run defense:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
-Starts off about 7 yards deep as the wide CB
-Recognizes pin & pull from the offense & comes up to fill the alley
-Tackles going through Najee Harris’ thigh pad & brings his hands to limit this to a 4 yard gain
Beautiful play in the short drag by Roger McCreary:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
-Gets on his horse to recover after losing at LOS
-Recognizes the pick is coming & makes a subtle move to avoid it
-Keeps chasing after the catch and makes the tackle short of the 1st
Can’t play a screen much better than this from Roger McCreary:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
-Reads it & works inside for a couple of steps to throw off WR’s angle
-Redirects to the outside & used speed to make the blocker miss
-Finishes with perfect tackling form
Not going to show up on the highlight tape, but this is textbook from Roger McCreary:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
-Fluid hips w/ speed to turn & run
-Stays on top of the WR & gets his outside hand involved to help stay in-phase when WR starts to push off
-Sinks hips at top of route
Excellent situational awareness by McCreary:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
-3rd & 17 so he plays w/ cushion & works for depth
-Sees QB pull the trigger, drops his hips, stays within his tube & accelerates to get there right after the ball
-Finishes w/ physical tackle to prevent 1st
You don’t always have to be the strongest guy or most physical to defend against a slant.— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
Here, Roger McCreary get his hands involved to stay in-phase but doesn’t over power the WR by any means & is in a perfect position to make a play on the ball
An example of Roger McCreay’s (LCB) speed— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 14, 2022
Johan Dotson can fly and McCreary runs step for step with him on this go route