In the lead up to the May 8-10 NFL draft, The Insider is looking at Washington’s positions of need, spotlighting players who might fit what Jay Gruden and staff are looking for. Mike Jones reports on players at the positions the Redskins need most, and provides top 10s. Mark Bullock has been writing screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, mid-draft and late.
Some athletes have the luxury of easing their way into competition. But that wasn’t the case for Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett. He got thrown into the fire immediately, and actually has Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to thank for it.
Verrett and the Horned Frogs opened the 2011 season on the road against Baylor, which was then led by Griffin. The quarterback kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign by passing for 359 yards and five touchdowns while completing 21 of 27 passes. Baylor won in a shootout, 50-48. Verrett – then a sophomore – found himself torched often that day.
But the game provided a valuable lesson, that even now, as Verrett prepares for the NFL Draft, remains prominent in his mind.
“That game pretty much opened up my career,” Verrett recalled. “It was a little roller-coaster ride for me my first collegiate game, but after that I was a two-time all-American. I feel like that game pretty much showed me how to handle adversity.
“After that game I was a little low, he added. “As a corner you’re going to have ups and downs, but I was able to overcome that.”
TCU rebounded from that game and went on to post an 11-2 record that season – its last in the Mountain West Conference. The Horned Frogs moved to the Big 12 the following year, and wins proved harder to come by as they went 7-6 in 2012 and 4-8 in 2013.
Verrett encountered other challenges in addition to the results in the win-loss column. But he always remained mindful to find a way to push through the adversity.
At 5 feet 9 and 189 pounds, Verrett often finds himself at a size disadvantage. But he uses his speed (he clocked a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine) and strong technique to compensate. Size, Verrett believes, isn’t an issue.
“I’ve been challenged with receivers that have been over 6 foot my whole college career,” Verrett said. “I played against [LSU’s] Odell Beckham, I played against [Texas’] Mike Davis, [Texas Tech’s] Eric Ward … I played against a lot of good receivers in college that were over 6 foot. I feel like I’m this height for a reason, but I can compete with the best.”
The current draft projections would agree, as Verrett ranks among the top 10 and is expected to go in the late first-round/early- to mid-second-round range. Verrett sees himself as one of the most versatile cornerbacks in the draft.
“If you look at my film, I played on the outside and I covered big receivers,” he said. “If I have to go in the nickel, I’ll go in the nickel. If I have to go outside, I’ll go outside. … I believe that I’m the best corner in this draft. I can draw the line [between confident and cocky] right there. I’m confident in what my capabilities are on the field.”
Verrett has also displayed great toughness during his career. Three games into his senior season, he tore the labrum in one of shoulders. He said he never considered sitting out the remainder of the year, or wearing a brace in games. He wanted to continue to help his team, and he didn’t want to limit himself. Verrett also put off surgery on the shoulder until after his Pro Day in March, where he cranked out 19 reps of 225 in the bench press.
“It wasn’t too painful. It’s a physical game,” he said. “You’re going to have to play injured sometimes just to get through the season. That’s what I had to do. … I feel like I showed toughness throughout my whole career. Being the size that I am, I’m going to have to be a lot more physical than the bigger guys. I feel like I showed that.”
Now Verrett will wait to find out how highly teams regard him in the draft. His lack of size, and inconsistent tackling ability will likely keep him from going among the top five spots at his position. But Verrett, who has drawn comparisons to Asante Samuel, still projects as an eventual impact player, and he himself has great confidence in his abilities and potential.
“I feel like my physicality, my toughness, quick feet, my ball-hawking skills [distinguish me],” he said. “I led the Big 12 the last two years with 38 passes defended, 30 pass breakups and eight interceptions.”
He added, “I feel like I covered some pretty good receivers in college. I covered some that are in the NFL now and doing well. Kenny Stills, Steadman Bailey. I feel like once I step into the league I’m going to have to show veterans that I can play. Get in the film room, try to do everything I can to start.”
Jones’s top 10 cornerbacks:
|rank||player (click names for bios)||school||ht.||wt.||proj. rd.|
|1||Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State||6-0||202||1|
|2||Darqueze Dennard||Michigan State||5-11||199||1|
|3||Kyle Fuller||Virginia Tech||6-0||190||1|
|4||Jason Verrett||Texas Christian||5-9||189||1-2|
|5||Bradley Roby||Ohio State||5-11||194||2|
|6||Lamarcus Joyner||Florida State||5-8||184||2|
|10||Stanley Jean-Baptiste (More here)||Nebraska||6-3||218||3|
Mike Jones attended the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has been tracking draft prospect visits for The Post. Have a question about the draft or anything else concerning the Redskins? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
More Redskins and NFL from The Post: