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The CHGO Sports crew continues “Making the Case” for prospects the Chicago Bears should consider drafting.
It’s no secret that the Chicago Bears have to determine who will be the starting outside cornerback outside of third-year pro, Jaylon Johnson. Failing to address this need would leave an obvious weakness on defense that opponents will exploit every week.
We’ve already made the case for Washington’s Kyler Gordon to be the answer.
However, what if he is not available? Are there any other options the Bears must consider in the second round?
Even if Chicago doesn’t get a shot at drafting Gordon, there are still impactful cornerbacks in the second round that would bolster the Bears’ defense.
Auburn’s Roger McCreary is one of those guys. If he is available when the Bears are on the clock, Chicago must heavily consider drafting him.
Roger McCreary’s Strengths
Three elements of McCreary’s game stand out above the rest — speed, physicality, and instincts.
There’s a reason why he was the highest-graded corner last season according to PFF with a grade of 89.9.
He ran a 4.46-40 at his pro day, which would have ranked in the top half of his class in the NFL Scouting Combine. Even though that’s not world-burning speed, McCreary plays fast. He can run with receivers on those deeper routes.
He also possesses strong short-area burst and quickness that allows him to close on receivers in a hurry. McCreary’s closing ability allows him to recover and make plays on the ball. He led the SEC with 14 PBUs in 2021 and has five interceptions since 2020.
Combining this athletic ability with his strong tackling technique is why he limits yards after the catch, lessening the impact of the receptions he does allow.
The former Tiger loves to get in the face of opposing wideouts. McCreary thrives in press-man coverage, where he played a majority of his coverage snaps (53 percent). He knows how to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and throw off their timing.
He’s no slouch when it comes to tackling. Whether it’s taking down receivers after the catch, or coming in for run support, McCreary’s tackling skills are an asset of his game. This may be due to the fact that he used to play safety.
McCreary’s instincts in zone coverage are strong. He likes to keep his eyes on the quarterback and can anticipate when the ball is going to be thrown. He also understands how offenses are trying to attack him with different routes. These instincts allow McCreary to put himself in a position to make plays on the ball, which is something he is always trying to do.
What may be most enticing about McCreary is the ideal blend of physicality and patience that he possesses. He’s not overly aggressive. You won’t see him biting hard on double moves. McCreary is calculated with his approach and picks his spots.
Roger McCreary’s Weaknesses
There was a time when McCreary was a consensus first-round pick. That appears to have changed when his arms only measured in at 29 inches. That limited wingspan may not appeal to every team.
The limited arm length wasn’t an issue for McCreary during his time at Auburn but could become a concern at the next level.
He doesn’t have top-notch play strength and could be bullied by some of the bigger-bodied wideouts in the NFL. This could ring especially true in some of those 50-50 situations.
Despite these physical limitations, McCreary never backs down. In fact, the attitude that he plays with is one that allows him to play “bigger” than some may think possible. He may not match up perfectly from a physical standpoint, but he makes sure to make life difficult for opposing receivers.
Making the Case
When you watch McCreary play football it’s evident that he is the type of player that general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus want on this roster.
He plays with a big chip on his shoulder and doesn’t back down from anything. He’s had to go toe-to-toe against some of the best receivers in the country playing in the SEC and has held his own every step of the way.
McCreary was practically the only cornerback in 2020 that was able to contain Ja’Marr Chase.
Oh, and he shut down one of the better receivers in this year’s class, Jahan Dotson.
Playing (and excelling) against elite talent should be a sign that McCreary is in for a smooth transition to the NFL.
McCreary would solve the Bears’ current problem of having a liability opposite of Johnson. Teams wouldn’t be able to pick on McCreary like they did Kindle Vildor a season ago.
His ability to stick with receivers, not allowing them to gain separation, and being a nuisance at the catch point will force quarterbacks to think twice and look elsewhere. If they do test McCreary and he’s able to make a play on the ball, who knows how many of those deflected passes may end up in the hands of another defender for a takeaway.
Due to McCreary’s physical approach and willingness to be a contributor against the run, Chicago could also look to bump him inside as a slot corner if that’s where they see him fitting best.
Whether he plays outside or inside, one thing is for certain. The Bears will be better with McCreary on the field. He has the tools (and the mindset) to be a difference-making cornerback in Chicago.
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