One year ago, I began writing here at PhinPhanatic and thus began my career as an amateur scout. One player I was extremely high on and had been lobbying for was an Arkansas State safety – how ironic, I must have a thing for Ark St. safeties..
Two months later, the NFL Draft had come and gone and this specific player was still available as an undrafted free agent. The Miami Dolphins had shown interest in this little known safety and snatched him right up as many draft experts pegged McCray as a fourth to sixth round prospect.
While this player was indeed an undrafted free agent, he showed the coaching staff his potential during rookie mini-camps and training camp. That is, until his rookie season came to a halt after injuring his foot during the tail-end of July.
Miami then placed this player on IR leading many to believe if he had not gotten injured the team would have placed him upon it’s 53-man squad backing up incumbent starters Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons.
Who is this player?
This is Kelcie McCray.
The 6’2”, 202 lbs. safety has been somewhat of a distant memory to some. Many were questioning why the team did not address the safety position early during last month’s NFL Draft. The reason? Kelcie McCray.
The coaching staff spoke highly of McCray when asked about his recovery and what to expect of the second-year safety. It also shows promise in what the team currently has on it’s roster at the safety position by not spending a draft selection on a safety when the team was clearly in line to grab one of the top players at the position.
Throughout his tenure with Ark St. McCray was known as a “ball-hawking” safety in the back-end of their secondary. During his senior season with the Red Wolves, McCray led the team in tackles (70) and notched two interceptions leading to an All-Sun Belt first-team honor.
At his pro day, the lanky safety ran a 4.52 40-yard dash. He also showed off his broad jump and vertical leap by posting respective numbers of 10’2” and 33.5 inches.
By no means necessary is McCray your typical Ed Reed style of safety playing the center field position. But, McCray is a physical defender whom I believe can form a formidable duo with last year’s break-out star, Reshad Jones.
Jones is more of an in-the-box style of safety whom can also cover tight ends and backs – as can McCray given his size and speed. Don’t overlook Jones’ athletic ability, though. He can also drop back to play the deep third if need be.
Pairing Jones along with McCray could pay dividends in the future if Miami deems Chris Clemons, whom signed a one-year deal with the team in March, expendable.
Clemons is widely known as an inconsistent safety – mostly by me – due to his inability to be a man and get physical when tackling on-coming ball carriers. Clemons also takes terrible angles. But he proved his worth to the defense during the latter portion of the 2012 season showing a more physical and consistent style of play the team needed at the free safety position – or he knew if he did not start playing better he would be flipping burgers next season.
Now, back to McCray.
NFL.com compared McCray to Baltimore Raven Bernard Pollard. While I see the comparison – hard hitting safety whom plays with a certain tenacity – I see a younger and less polished Antrel Rolle in this kid. Both are good cover safeties – Rolle made the switch to safety after being one of the most touted corners to enter the league in 2005 – and have a knack for finding the football.
Rolle has really found a niche in the back-end of the New York Giants‘ defense. Although the former Miami Hurricane is not an interception machine like he was at The U, Rolle is a constant supporter against the run and finds the football on a consistent basis – whether it is intercepting the ball, knocking it down or forcing/recovering a fumble.
I expect McCray to make a similar transformation to that of Rolle. McCray possesses similar cover skills as Rolle, but he is bigger and more physical than Rolle.
McCray will not be ready to step into that type of a starting role this season, but if defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle works his magic with this defensive back, we could be looking at our new free safety in a year or two.
I will leave you with this little highlight clip.