First Round Verrett?
Back in May, I compared TCU corner Jason Verrett to former Huskie Desmond Trufant after getting my first look at the 1st team All-Big 12 corner. While today I would backpedal a bit from that statement (I like Verrett much more than I liked Trufant), I still have a few concerns about his game that prevent me from grading him as a first round player, which appears to be the consensus among draft analysts.
I don’t doubt that Verrett possesses the physical traits (minus size) to succeed as a cornerback in the NFL: athleticism, foot quickness, closing burst and aggressiveness to attack receivers out of their breaks are all things that stand out while watching him. That’s why he’s at his best when able to play flat-footed a few yards from the line of scrimmage, keeping the action in front of him and enabling him to gamble and jump routes, which he does quite well.
While I really like that part of Verrett’s game, I’m a big believer that, in today’s game, you need cornerbacks that can play press, at least to prevent the quarterback from locking on the easy 5-yard hitch. Even though some may believe Verrett’s lack of size or length will prevent him from being an effective press corner at the next level, I’m bothered more by his technique and footwork in those situations.
With the help of two plays from the season opener against LSU, I’ll illustrate why I’m not yet completely sold on the TCU corner.
This is the first 3rd down of the game for the TCU defense. Verrett is matched up against Odell Beckham Jr. on the single receiver side. This is a good example of one of the things Verrett needs to improve: he tends to get upright off the snap when aligned in a press-man position.
This makes him lose the leverage battle from the get-go, which keeps him from maintaining a balanced position through the stutter step of the wide receiver. Unable to bend at the knees due to a high center of gravity, Verrett has to bend at the waist to put his hands on the receiver, “reaching” in the process and allowing an inside release.
Another concern I have with Verrett is his hip transition and footwork when playing off-technique. This is not a problem limited to him, as I see it more and more at the collegiate level: rather than a precise, quick, compact backpedal, he tends to get too jumpy off the snap.
What that does is it allows the receiver to eat the cushion more easily, and it prevents the cornerback from keeping square to his target at the top of the route, which is essential to break in any given direction. Instead, he flies his hips open and gets caught on his heels at the break point. That translates into separation.
As you can see, most of my issues with Verrett are based on technique, particularly the waist down aspect of it. Lack of size or length is something he can’t do anything about and, frankly, I wouldn’t even list those as negatives.
But right now he’s allowing catches that he shouldn’t be giving up, given his quickness and click-and-close ability. For that reason, I can’t jump on the Verrett train just yet; however, if he improves that aspect of his game, I will feel more comfortable giving him a Top 20 draft projection.