Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert are largely considered the best two cornerback prospects in the 2014 draft class, but the conversation about No. 3 begins with TCU’s Jason Verrett.
Verrett finished 2013 with 39 tackles and a pair of interceptions for the Horned Frogs en route to earning Walter Camp All-American honors. The 5-foot-10, 176-pound defensive back put forth his most impressive performance when against Big 12 opponents. He held Baylor’s top wideout Antwan Goodley to a single catch for 12 yards, and earlier in the year he held Texas Tech’s top receiver, Eric Ward, catchless.
Verrett’s skill-set translates best into a slot corner role. He can be physical, but he’s at his best when he’s trailing receivers on crossing routes and, because he is able to quickly diagnose the play, can close quickly. His fluid footwork allows him to both drive quickly and react instinctively to the ball.
The co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year will need to improve at the next level. He’s a smaller cornerback, so bigger wideouts tend to overpower him in blocks. He’s also coming off of shoulder surgery, which is something to keep an eye on.
Scouts have compared Verrett to Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who has been known to a pesky defender the past few seasons. And he’s also drawn parallels to Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos.
Verrett is the No. 28 overall prospect by ESPN, No. 34 by CBS Sports, and No. 39 by Rotoworld. The latter two rankings, as well as Mel Kiper Jr., pin him as the No. 3 corner, while Scouts Inc. has him at No. 5 behind Gilbert, Dennard and risers Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State and Loucheiz Puriofy of Florida.
If both Dennard and Gilbert are off the board, Verrett could fall to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 22nd pick. The Eagles ranked dead last in pass defense, but it did improve as the year went on. The team has Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin, and Bradley Fletcher already, and probably needs more help in safety than at corner.
Both the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints are in need of cornerback help. The Bolts received no consistency from their corners last year, so should they look to address that position with their first pick, they’ll likely have to see which prospect they like the best and which is available. The same goes for New Orleans. Rafael Bush and Malcolm Jenkins are free agents, so if the team can only re-sign one, Rob Ryan will need to add another through the draft to sure up his secondary.
Finally, the San Francisco 49ers could nab Verrett if he falls to them at No. 30. Tarell Brown and Perrish Cox are both impending free agents, while reports indicate Carlos Rogers may be not be back in 2014. San Fran may need to reassemble its secondary, and Verrett could be the first step toward doing just that.