The SEC is considered to be the top conference in college football, especially when projecting players to the NFL level. That doesn’t mean all SEC players are guaranteed to succeed — there’s context and uniqueness with every draft prospect — but the numbers speak for themselves: In 2021, NFL teams selected 65 players from the SEC — the most among college football conferences for the 15th consecutive year.
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The 5-foot-11, 190-pound outside cornerback for the Tigers earned the fourth-highest coverage grade in the FBS among all corners (90.2). That number was second in the SEC among cornerbacks, though McCreary played almost 100 more snaps in press coverage than any cornerback with a higher grade.
|Player||Coverage Grade||FBS Grade Rank (vs. CBs)||Total Snaps||Snaps in Press|
Not bad for a player who only started playing the position in college.
As a former quarterback, linebacker, wide receiver and running back, McCreary brings a new level of athletic versatility to his game, something that will surely help him stand out in a talented 2022 cornerback class.
A TRUE JACK OF ALL TRADES
In high school, McCreary had the talent to help his team all over the field. He says he played wherever the team needed him to play — he just wanted to win.
“If they needed me to score a touchdown, I’d try to play receiver and score a touchdown,” McCreary recently told PFF. “They need me to throw a deep pass, I was the person to throw it deep. They need somebody to run it, I'm gonna run the ball. Defense, I’ll do anything on defense, too, so I just basically did everything for the team.”
McCreary began his football career playing running back and linebacker, but when it came time for high school football, the coaches expanded his playbook to wide receiver. As a ‘Bama fan growing up, the Alabama native loved watching guys like Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. When he had the chance to actually play receiver, he thought that was going to be his best spot, but it wasn't easy at first.
“Going to high school the position I wanted to play the most was receiver,” McCreary said. “It was a little hard for me my freshman year because I couldn't catch the ball. The ball was bigger, it was coming faster, so I was like, ‘Dang, can I really play receiver?’ So as it went along, they started to let me take my time, go by slow and that's when I really started to love playing receiver.
“I kept scoring a lot of touchdowns and stuff. And when it came to college, I wanted to play receiver, but I never got an offer at receiver. A lot of people had offered me at safety. Crazy thing about it, Auburn was the only school that offered me at cornerback, and I never played cornerback before.”
McCreary's versatility stemmed in part from his strength, even as a smaller guy in high school. He maxed 365 pounds on the bench press at just 170 pounds. His defensive linemen would get mad at him for out-benching them on max lift days.
The speed also helped, of course. McCreary ran track in high school, competing in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100 relay. He ran a 10.7 in the 100 but takes more pride in a personal-best 21.6 in the 200. On the football field, the only time he has run a 40-yard dash was at a football camp in high school, where he clocked in at a hand-timed 4.39 with little practice or experience.
A FOOTBALL FAMILY
McCreary is as comfortable as they come on a football field. He has his mother to thank for that. One of the first positions he played was linebacker because his mother used to be a linebacker herself in her Pop Warner days, earning the nickname “Ice Box.”