Jason Verrett, TCU (Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMI)
What kept Jason Verrett from being the first cornerback taken in the 2014 NFL draft? Quite possibly, only his height. At 5-foot-9, Verrett falls shy of the league's desired standard at CB, especially with several teams boasting multiple receivers 6-3 or taller.
A deeper dive into Verrett's game, however, finds a player who has had no qualms about matching up with more physically imposing opponents. This was a natural fit all along, with the Chargers desperate to upgrade a shoddy secondary and Verrett looking like he would slip into the later reaches of Round 1.
Strengths: Excels at finding and playing the football, using those instincts to make up for any height or strength deficiencies. Drives on shorter routes, also gets his head around when running deep with receivers. Almost impossible for receivers to blow past him — Verrett ran a 4.38 40 at the combine, and might be the best CB in this draft when it comes to flipping his hips and breaking downfield. No issues moving around on defense, as TCU used him both in the slot and outside. Plenty capable of helping against the run, too, a nod to his physical nature. Welcomes matchups with star receivers.
Weaknesses: As if his size did not already pose a question mark for NFL teams, Verrett was banged up through much of last season. His willingness to enter the fray as a run defender worked to his detriment in that regard. Likely will have a very difficult time if asked to jam NFL receivers at the line, because of limited strength. Can be blocked out of plays with ease if a receiver/tight end manages to square him up. High-points the football, but will lose jump balls to taller receivers simply because of his limitations.
Without having to sacrifice any additional picks and trade up, the Chargers scored a cornerback that's clearly among the top five at his position in this class. Heck, Verrett may turn out to be the best of the bunch, given that he has the versatility to play zone or man and has a knack for finding the football in the air. Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller and Darqueze Dennard were the cornerbacks taken above him. Don't be surprised if Verrett becomes the pace-setter among the rookies at his position before long.
The lone knock on Verrett -- size--was overblown but it's still a valid one. The AFC West has a few big, physical receivers who will challenge him on a weekly basis.
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