The Bills traded a conditional seventh-round pick in 2018 for Lerentee McCray on Tuesday, and because he’s far from a household name, a scouting report is in order.
According to Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, after spending 2013 on IR, McCray played 154 of 975 possible defensive snaps (15.8%) with the Broncos the following year. On his 82 pass-rushing snaps that season, he registered one sack, one quarterback hit and seven hurries, which led to a positive grade in PFF’s old grading system.
In 2015, McCray played 122 of Denver’s 703 defensive snaps (17.4%) which included 56 as a run-defender, 52 as a pass-rusher and 14 in coverage.
He only registered one sack and one hurry on off the edge, yet his run-stopping efforts were better, as he made 12 solo tackles, nine of which were “stops” or plays categorized as a “loss” for the offense based on down and distance.
Therefore, in two seasons as a sparingly used contributor on the Broncos extremely loaded defensive front, McCray flashed ability against both the run and pass.
I reach out to Mile High Report’s EIC Tim Lynch about McCray, and he provided this insight, which mainly focuses on his special team exploits:
McCray spent his first season with the Denver Broncos on injured reserve but emerged as a solid special teams contributor in his second year in 2014. His role remained that way through 2015. While he played some snaps on defense last season, it was not many.
McCray is still just 26 years old, and if all he does for the Buffalo Bills is play special teams that's okay. The Broncos special teams unit was very underrated, probably because of the shadow that defense casts on everything else on that team. With Super Bowl experience, he'll at least provide an impact on punt and kickoff coverage. The Broncos are very deep on defense, so when he left I figured he would surely catch on somewhere. The same should happen to the linebackers the Broncos will be forced to cut this weekend. Bills fans should be happy with this move.
Due to injury, McCray wasn’t able to work out at the combine or his pro day, so we can’t gauge his timed athleticism to compare to other players at his position.
Here’s what was written about McCray in NFL.com’s draft profile when he was entering the league out of Florida in 2013:
Versatile defender who rushes the passer from either side of the line, with his hand down or standing up. Solid get-off from a hand-down position, can stay low and has excellent flexibility to turn the corner, length to wrap up quarterbacks and separate the ball on impact. Also wins B-gap by coming off low and strong. Uses his length to get leverage when bull-rushing or facing double teams on the edge despite his slight build. Powerful hands that result in a jolt on contact. Works hard through blocks to reach the quarterback if the ball stays in the pocket. Hustles to chase plays across the line and downfield. Stays on his feet through cut blocks, uses his hands to keep balance. Agile enough to drop into a zone. Shows hands for the easy interception.
Has an injury history, also rotated out of games regularly; must prove stamina to be an every-down player. Lean defender who can be knocked off his path as a pass rusher by a strong punch. Relies on outside rush too often, needs counter moves to take advantage of inside lane. Struggles to get off blocks when leaning into his man on the edge. Must prove he has the agility and bend to move with receivers outside in coverage.
The “bottom line” section included the following; “when healthy, the former four-star high school recruit flashes enough strength, length and athleticism to be a mid-round pick capable of contributing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.”
I found it interesting and, actually, kind of ironic that the NFL player comparison McCray received from NFL.com was Bryan Thomas, a former Jets linebacker who thrived as a ultra-versatile piece in Rex Ryan’s defense from 2009 - 2012, particularly in Rex’s first two years in New York when Gang Green made back-to-back AFC title games.
The 6’4”, 265-pound Thomas was a first-round pick by the Jets in 2002 and tallied 92 total tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles with New York in 2009 and 2010 as an outside linebacker / defensive end hybrid.
Will McCray primarily be a special teamer? Probably. But with his athleticism, some similarities to Thomas, and the fact that Buffalo traded for him, I expect Rex to give him ample opportunity to make an impact as a situational edge-defender this season.