2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Michigan ILB Mike McCray

From now until the 2018 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a several others will be top-ranked players at their positions. If there is a player you would like us to breakdown and profile in the coming weeks and months, let us know in the comments below.

#9 Mike McCray/ILB Michigan – 6’1/1 241

The Good

– Good size and great length for his height (33 inch arms)
– Strong, physical player who anchors at the point of attack, uses length to create space when guards climb to second level
– Hand use to stack and shed blockers in the run game
– High IQ, reads run/pass keys and good processor of how blocks develop and route concepts in coverage
– Moved around the defense, played out in space, asked to blitz in an aggressive defense from the interior and along the edge, times his blitzes well
– Reliable tackler who finishes plays, doesn’t miss many
– Well-coached, played for one of the best defensive coordinators in college football
– Productive career and held in high regards by teammates

The Bad

– Limited athlete who will struggle in space, takes good angles to football but foot speed still a question, gets exposed playing man coverage, even on RBs, and can’t recover on pick plays
– Questions of if he can be a three down linebacker
– Not a great blitzer who tends to get pressure when scheme gets him unblocked, not by defeating a block
– Can get too aggressive on the edge in the run game, not do his job and lose his run fit
– Lacks change of direction ability in space, stiff-hipped


– Two year starter, 26 in total
– Career: 162 tackles, 30.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 2 FF, 2 INTs
– 2017: 84 tackles, 17 TFL, 1 FF
– Captain at Michigan, named captain at Senior Bowl
– Co-winner of team award for player who “demonstrates the most enthusiasm and love for Michigan.”

Tape Breakdown

I don’t want to typecast Mike McCray as “just” a two-down thumper who can’t move worth a lick. He’s not a great athlete, or even a good one, but he has the IQ and processing to make up for some of that and make plays in space. One of my favorite plays of his came in Saturday’s Senior Bowl game from him in coverage.

He’s not able to watch the route the whole way. But he already knows what it’s going to be. The boot action, nothing in the flat, the over route is going to be coming from the backside. McCray might take a peek, drifts on the route, and bats it down.

He’s going to time average, at best, but it’s his ability to diagnose and react that makes him play a tick faster than he really is.

Another example, this time versus the run.

Here, he takes on the block, sheds it, and makes the tackle, practically all in one motion. Great rep.

But when isolated in space, he definitely gets exposed. Penn State kept matching him up against Saquon Barkley and the results weren’t pretty. Sure, it’s Barkley but that’s a prime example of the level of talent he’s going to face in the NFL on a weekly basis. Offensive coordinators are going to target him, just in the way the Jaguars did Sean Spence in the playoffs.

I’m mixed on him, as you might be able to tell. He’s sorta like Vince Williams but probably a little more instinctual, a little less athletic. Don’t see him being capable of staying on the field on 3rd and long, which definitely caps his value, but he’s a smart player, physical, and I’m sure coaches will love his attitude and demeanor. Potential for a fringe starter Buck in a 3-4 and strong special teamer.

Projection: Mid Day Three

Games Watched: at Penn State, vs Rutgers, vs Ohio State, Senior Bowl

Previous 2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Sam Darnold Garret Dooley Calvin Ridley Fred Warner Ronald Jones II
Maurice Hurst
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