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NFL draft: Auburn CB Roger McCreary sets sights on blazing 40-yard dash at combine

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Auburn's Roger McCreary is one of the best cornerback prospects in the 2022 NFL draft.

He has the quickness, competitiveness and experience to stack up against almost anyone at his position in this year's crop.

But McCreary lacks ideal size. At last month's Senior Bowl, McCreary measured at 5-foot-11 and 189 pounds. While that's not considered elite size, it's hardly McCreary's biggest issue. Plenty of quality NFL corners — Tre'Davious White, Denzel Ward and A.J. Terrell to name a few — measure similarly.

NFL team scouts are far more concerned about McCreary's arm length. At 29 1/2 inches, McCreary's arms measure at about the 2nd percentile among all scouting combine corners the past 20-plus years. It's possible that the lack of length, a key metric for the position, could push him out of the first round.

McCreary said it's not an issue in his mind, even if scouts disagree.

"When I’ve talked to teams, they have not mentioned [the arm-length issue]," he said. "It doesn’t faze me at all because I am still a great player."

But ... what if McCreary blows the roof off Lucas Oil Stadium next week?

It's possible. McCreary is considered an elite athlete, even by NFL corner standards, and a strong workout at the combine can offset a sub-par measurement.

"I haven’t really thought about what I need for the first round and stuff," he told Yahoo Sports this week. "I haven’t focused on that. I am just trying to be the best I can be."

McCreary's combine workout plan is to “just crush everything.”

That includes the 40-yard dash. In the spring, NFL scouting services installed him as a possible first-round pick, estimating his 40 speed at around 4.45 seconds.

McCreary believes he has a chance to top that mark.

"If I get a 4.4 it might mean one thing, but if I get a 4.3, it might mean something else," McCreary said. "So [a 4.3 is] my goal, and I am just going to go for it."

A 40 time in the 4.3-second range might open the possibility of Round 1 again.

His body of work is impressive. McCreary accumulated six interceptions (including a pick-6 last year), 38 passes defended, 10 tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble and two recoveries in a 42-game career, many coming against some of the best wide receivers in the mighty SEC.

"I’ve played in a lot of stadiums in college," McCreary said. "I had a smooth Senior Bowl week. I’ve played nickel, [outside] corner. I feel like I’ve put myself in a great position to compete."

Auburn CB Roger McCreary believes he can have a standout performance at the NFL combine. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Auburn CB Roger McCreary believes he can have a standout performance at the NFL scouting combine. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Roger McCreary's best WR battles in college

Two games come to mind when McCreary is asked about his toughest matchups in college.

One receiver McCreary mentioned was Alabama's John Metchie III, one of the best slot targets in the country.

The other was Ja'Marr Chase. As in, the Cincinnati Bengals rookie who set the league on fire in 2021 and nearly led his team to a Super Bowl title.

In 2019, when a 19-year-old Chase was in the midst of torching SEC opponents in a 20-TD season, McCreary drew the assignment to cover him when Auburn traveled to LSU. Former Miami Dolphins first-rounder Noah Igbinoghene also drew Chase some that game, but McCreary and Chase were locked up several times in what ended up as LSU's closest win in an undefeated season.

Chase caught four of the five passes thrown his way for 84 yards, including a 45-yard grab. Each of Chase's four grabs generated first downs. McCreary, who was making his first college start that day, picked off a pass intended for Chase (one of only six INTs thrown by Joe Burrow that season) and made 10 tackles in an impressive 81-snap performance.

Watching the Super Bowl this year, all McCreary could think about was his battle two years ago with Chase, giving him even more of the idea that he belongs in the NFL. Asked which game tape best showed his ability as an NFL prospect, McCreary didn't hesitate and picked that game.

"In terms of bouncing back quick, I’d want to show them 2019 LSU," he said.

A more recent performance scouts will dive into was the classic game at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Alabama and Metchie. The two locked horns quite a bit, especially down the stretch of the game, when they faced off nearly every snap.

Metchie won a few reps. So did McCreary. It was a heavyweight battle of two smaller but absurdly tough competitors. Auburn led most of the game before Bama saved its playoff chances with a four-overtime victory.

Metchie had 13 catches for 150 yards, along with both of Bama's two-point scores in overtime. McCreary allowed seven catches for 93 yards on a whopping 18 targets — and McCreary added four pass breakups.

Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary (23) breaks up a pass intended for Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary (23) breaks up a pass intended for Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)

"That was a crazy game," McCreary said. "I knew I was going up against Metchie no matter what. That was my toughest matchup in college football other than Ja’Marr Chase. I knew the ball was going to [Metchie] every time. I knew he’d catch a few. I knew it was going to be a battle."

Added Metchie: "Probably the corner I have the most respect for after playing them is Roger. It definitely was a great battle this year. Just the buildup and the whole game was just a big affair. Having to win with toughness in practice because he’s a really good player you have to prepare and study for."

McCreary played 81 grueling snaps out of the 93 Auburn's defense was on the field. Metchie was out there for 92 of the 93 snaps. More than half of them came against each other.

"It was tough because I was cramping up by the end," McCreary said. "I knew [Metchie] was too. We were both just grinding. It was that way the whole game but especially at the end."

Even though McCreary's team lost a heartbreaker and endured a tough loss to cap a disappointing season that started out so promisingly, he said he believes he can walk away with his head held high from his performance in that game.

"When you go against talented receivers, you need to have that confidence high," McCreary said. "That’s brought out a lot of my game. I feel like every corner needs to have that mentality, and I definitely do."