Jason Verrett, CB, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers were a pleasant surprise last season, posting a 9-7 record and making it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Their success, however, was largely a result of their offense, which ranked fifth in total yards. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers ranked 23rd in yards allowed. Though they had a number of weak spots on the defense, there was no position group worse than the Chargers' cornerbacks. Of 110 qualifying corners, no Chargers player ranked better than 94th in Pro Football Focus' rankings last year - that 94th-ranked player was the Chargers' No. 4 corner, Johnny Patrick, who is no longer on the team.
It was clear that the Chargers would prioritize cornerback in this year's draft, and they did just that with their No. 25 pick, landing Jason Verrett out of TCU.
Some believe that if Verrett were just a few inches taller (he is 5-foot-9), he would have been the first cornerback off the board this year. He is a quick-twitch athlete with great speed (4.38 forty) and impressive short-area explosiveness. His instincts help him make up for his size, as he can make quick reads on the ball and beat receivers to the catch point. He is a willing tackler in the run game, as well.
I've already alluded to his biggest problem - size. The NFL likes tall, long cornerbacks, but Verrett is well under 6-feet and has arms at about 30.5 inches in length. He can struggle against the run at times when swallowed up by bigger receivers or tight ends. His tough, scrappy style of play can often allow him to make up for that, but the ceiling is only so high given his physical limitations.
Verrett is a near lock to take over slot duties from the first snap of Week 1. His size makes him best suited for the slot, and his willingness to charge the line of scrimmage and make a play in the run game makes him a desirable slot defender. There is also a chance that Verrett earns a starting job in the Chargers' base defense, as well. Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall are penciled in as the team's starters, but they were both awful last year. Even if Verrett's long-term home is primarily in the slot, he still may have enough talent to beat out a pathetic group of cornerbacks for a starting job.
This is a solid pick - I'll give it a B. My biggest concern is that Verrett struggles to ever be effective on the perimeter against division rival receivers like Demaryius Thomas (6-foot-3) and Dwayne Bowe (6-foot-2). I think that when you draft a cornerback in the first round, the hope is generally that he'll eventually be able to handle opposing No. 1 pass catchers. Verrett may eventually be able to do that, but it will be an uphill battle given his size. There are also some health concerns that stem from his small frame and recent shoulder surgery. That surgery, by the way, will likely cause Verrett to miss some (though not all) of training camp.
That being said, Verrett profiles as an exceptional slot corner, and the Chargers need whatever they can get at the position. Verrett should provide an immediate boost to the team's collection of cornerbacks, and he could very well end up being a starter in the first regular season game of his professional career.
There was not really a player who would have better filled a position need at No. 25 for the Chargers. Cornerback Bradley Roby could have been an option at 5-foot-11, but his off-field and consistency issues are just as much of a red flag as Verrett's size. I bet general manager Tom Telesco was pretty upset when the Cincinnati Bengals nabbed Darqueze Dennard with the No. 24 pick.