+Awesome on tape
+Elite instincts in all phases of the game
+Understands his opponents
+Great route recognition skills
+Plays with swagger
+Excellent in run support for his size
+Good lateral quickness
+Excellent ball skills
+Appears to have long arms for his size
+Good strength for his size
-Awful measurables for a first round prospect
-Below average long speed for a first round prospect
-Doesn’t have the strength to shed blocks
When I first heard of Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett, I was hearing that he was the best cornerback of the senior class. I was pretty skeptical. The guy if 5’10, 179lbs, and runs a 4.49 40 yard dash. So he’s short, skinny, and, given his lack of bulk, not particularly fast for his size. Frankly, he’s a fourth round physical specimen. And if you are a fourth round physical specimen, you must have the film of a top 15 pick to really be worth first round consideration (since film is way more important than measurables). I never write a guy off without seeing film, but, when I watched last year’s Oklahoma game last Tuesday, I was skeptical of Verrett’s ability.
After the first quarter of that game, the only thought on my mind was “If this guy is always this good, he’s the next Ronde Barber.”
The first draft I ever scouted was 2010. 2014 will be the 5th draft I’ve ever scouted. And, in that time, I have never seen a corner with better film than Jason Verrett. In the 3 games I have seen so far this off-season (the last 3 on TCU’s schedule), he has been a more valuable player for his team than Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Joe Haden, and Dee Millner ever were for their teams. This guy is so good. He will have a great career in the NFL.
I’ve already mentioned Verrett’s measurables. 5’10 is less than ideal. 179lbs makes him the skinniest potential first round corner I can remember. A 4.49 40 (via NFLDraftScout.com) isn’t impressive for a guy who is as skinny as Verrett.
Verrett has excellent stats. He had 63 tackles, 5 TFL’s (well above average), 6 interceptions and 16 pass breakups in 13 games in 2012. The interception numbers were pretty good, but what really surprised me were the tackle stats. I had a tough time imaging how such a skinny corner could get that many tackles in a season, 46 of which were solo. Sure enough, on film, he’s a great tackler for his size.
Verrett is excellent in man coverage. His top end speed is only average, but he has very good quickness and phenomenal instincts in coverage. He anticipated routes like he has ESP and changes directions with ease. He is phenomenal at reading the eyes of receivers, which gives him an idea as to where route is going and also tells him when the ball is in the air when his back is to the quarterback on the deep ball. He’s phenomenal at breaking up passes and never gives his man any space. He’s extremely physical in man coverage and knows how to reroute receivers. When trying to breakup up passes, for the sake of avoiding pass interference penalties, his timing is nothing short of impeccable. He has an uncanny ability to be physical without committing penalties. He knows how to use the sideline as an extra defender and make it impossible for receivers to make catches on the outside. His awareness is awesome and his elite fluidity makes him tough to fool on double moves, since he changes directions as fast as the receiver he is covering. He knows how to attack the arms of receivers to break up passes he can’t reach, shocking while avoiding pass interference penalties. He’s absolutely dominant in man coverage.
Verrett is good in zone coverage. He moves pretty well laterally, like most smaller players, and he has excellent ball skills and hands. His instincts are phenomenal, and he always seems to notice the locations of receivers in the periphery of his vision while reading the eyes of the opposing quarterback, something he also does well. He doesn’t bite on pump fakes and he has elite body control. He constantly baits quarterbacks into making unwise throws and gets a lot of interceptions that way. He has excellent quickness and short area speed. He always knows his assignment in zone coverage and always admonishes his teammates when they make a mistake in zone, reminding them what they should have done. He’s a defensive leader and an on field coach.
Verrett is good against the run, especially for a small corner. His biggest weakness against the run is that he doesn’t have the strength to get off blocks and wrap up against bigger backs. 1olbs would do him wonders, but right now, he usually has to tackle running backs low, and he can’t shed a block to save his life. Not that he isn’t willing to wrap up as a tackler; he’s a scrappy player that never backs down when tackling. He just needs strength. The ability to shed blocks is a bigger problem. There are plenty of receiver divas that aren’t willing to block, and he always has a field day against those guys, but he’s a bit more average against receivers who care, and those will be more common in the NFL. What really stands out are his instincts. Corners tend to have mediocre instincts against the run since there too short to see over the heads of linemen and know what’s happening in the back field. They also have to be staring at wide receivers in case the play is a pass. Bottom line, most of them have no idea what’s going on behind the line of scrimmage. Verrett, somehow, does. Even if he’s too short to see the running back, he always seems to be able to diagnose plays, find the running back, and make plays. His instincts against the run are absolutely elite, and make him a net positive against the run in spite of his mediocre strength.
What really stands out about Verrett is how smart he is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a corner as savvy as Verrett at the collegiate level (Alterraun Verner is pretty close). There are so many brilliant things that I see Verrett do that I can’t help but appreciate. For example, his approach to tackling Le’Veon Bell in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was perfect. Verrett may have good strength relative to his size, but he’s still a 179lbs corner trying to tackle a 230lbs running back. Let’s just say it’s a bit of a mismatch. When in space, Verrett did what he’s coached to do; trip him up by diving at his legs. He never missed a tackle that way. However, when he wasn’t in space, and he couldn’t get enough of a running start to dive, he did something else, equally brilliant but not as frequently attempted. He jumped at his ankles, wrapped his arms around them, wouldn’t let them go, and waited for his teammates to knock Bell down. The most Bell could do was just fall forward for a few yards after contact. Bottom line, Verrett went 8 for 8 in his tackles of Bell during the game. The other thing that stood out is his understanding of his opponents, their strengths, and their weaknesses. For example, he likes to bait opposing quarterbacks into throwing hitch routes after intentionally giving the receiver a small amount of space, only to jump the route. He used this to perfection on plays against Texas and Michigan State. But against Oklahoma? Never. Why? Landry Jones isn’t a perfect quarterback, but he definitely has the throw power to get the ball to his receiver before Verrett is able to jump the route. So he didn’t give Kenny Stills any space throughout the entire game (2 catches, 16 yards). There are other little things he does very well. If he gets beat, he knows how to limit the damage. Twice, I saw him allow inside leverage to opposing receivers on slant routes. You see a lot of corners who treat any catch as shameful. They will dive at the receiver running the route and try to break up the pass they have almost no chance of touching. Verrett dives at the receiver, wraps his arms around his chest, and makes certain it’s only a 6 yard gain. Lots of little things like those make Verrett special.
Overall, I love Verrett. His toughness, football smarts, physicality, and feel for the game are absolutely off the charts. He’ll be a very good player at the NFL level.
NFL Comparison: Ronde Barber, minus 10lbs of muscle. If you want a comparison to a player that hasn’t retired, I’d say Brandon Flowers, with a bit more speed and quickness but a bit less strength.
Grade: 97 (worthy of a top 10 pick)
Projection: 92 (will be a late first round pick)