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. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Mark Bullock checks in with screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, mid-draft and late. On Mondays and Thursdays, Mike Jones reports on players at the positions the Redskins need most, and provides top 10s; Here’s his look at cornerbacks.
High round: Jason Verrett
What Verrett lacks in size, he makes up for with his work rate and coverage skills. At 5 feet 9, Verrett is seen by many as too small to play anything other than slot corner in the NFL. But at Texas Christian, he faced some of the higher-rated wide receiver prospects in this draft class, like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry of Louisiana State, and kept them quiet for the most part.
Verrett’s instincts and ball skills are his best qualities. He does a fantastic job locating and attacking the ball in the air.
On this play, LSU stacks its receivers, forcing TCU to play off-man coverage. Verrett takes an inside shade and is covering Landry on a in-breaking route over the middle.
With Verrett playing off coverage, he’s able to keep an eye on the quarterback while sticking to his receiver. As Landry cuts inside, Verrett spots the quarterback beginning his throw. Verrett jumps on the route, undercutting the throw.
Verrett gets his hand to the ball before Landry can, knocking it to the ground to prevent the touchdown.
Verrett does an excellent job locating the ball while covering deep routes too.
This time, Verrett is in the slot over Beckham Jr., who is running an out and up.
Verrett makes a mistake, trying to sneak a look into the backfield. That allows Beckham to get across him to the outside.
Beckham gains a yard on Verrett, who is now working hard to make up the lost ground.
Verrett proved quick enough to recover. He watches Beckham’s eyes intently as he looks for an indication that the ball is coming his way. Beckham looks back and starts adjusting to catch the ball. Verrett recognizes this quickly and begins to look back himself, to locate the ball.
Verrett then plays the ball instead of the receiver. He watches it all the way down and gets his hand on it before Beckham can, knocking it incomplete.
Verrett’s size didn’t negatively impact his coverage too often, but it became evident in run support. He’s a willing run defender, which is a positive, but he was too easy to block at times.
Verrett has outside containment on this end-around. LSU sends a fullback out in space to be the lead blocker.
You would expect most fullbacks to be able to block most corners, and that is the case here. But Verrett “gave up contain” on the outside. If Verrett is able to position himself on the outside shoulder of the fullback, the runner is forced to cut back inside, toward Verrett’s teammates. But Verrett allows the fullback to dictate the block too easily, getting sealed off inside and allowing the runner to bounce outside. This should have been a four- or five-yard gain, but turned into a 15-yard run.
Ultimately, Verrett’s primary responsibility is to cover. He showed up well against some tough competition throughout his college career. If a team is willing to let him play outside, he has the potential to be a very good cover corner. At worst, he becomes a team’s top slot corner and a special teamer. I believe he has the ability to play outside and move inside to the slot in nickel situations, which is something the Redskins could use help with. Free agent acquisition Tracy Porter is currently lined up to play a similar role until David Amerson is ready to be the full-time starter on the outside. But Porter is only signed to a two-year deal. Verrett could give the Redskins some long-term security at corner.
Projection: Late first/early second
Middle round: Walt Aikens
Aikens would offer the Redskins something they’ve lacked in the secondary for quite some time: A tall, long, physical corner that excels at playing press coverage. Aikens measures in at 6-1, 203, with 32-inch arms that allow him to jam receivers at the line and disrupt the timing of routes.
Here, Aikens lines up in press coverage.
Aikens uses his length exceptionally well off the snap to land a strong jam to the chest of the receiver. He forces the receiver to take an outside release, which limits the number of routes he can run.
Aikens does a good job opening his hips to turn and run with the receiver. He sticks to him tightly, even as the receiver works into his break to the sideline.
Aikens is in a perfect position to cover the route. Had the ball been thrown to his receiver, Aikens could have easily undercut the throw and intercepted it. The quarterback opts against throwing it in Aikens’s direction.
Aikens also does a good job locating the ball and playing the ball instead of the receiver.
Aikens is again lined up in press coverage. He takes an inside shade on the receiver to force him to the sideline.
Aikens is a fluid athlete and has no trouble turning and running with receivers.
He locates the ball in the air and aggressively pursues it. Aikens displays the extent of his length here, stretching to deflect the ball and break up the pass.
Aikens is still a somewhat raw prospect and didn’t face the toughest level of competition in college, playing for Liberty. He showed up well at the Senior Bowl against tougher opponents, but will still face questions on how well he’ll fare against NFL receivers. But he has the desired size and athleticism for a press corner. He will take some developing, but could prove to be a value pick. His size and press ability is certainly something the Redskins don’t currently possess in their secondary, which would make him an attractive option in the middle rounds of the draft.
Projection: Fourth round
Late round: Dexter McDougle
The 5-10, 196-pound McDougle grew up in Virginia and spent his college career playing for Maryland, so the Redskins’ scouts wouldn’t have had to travel far to watch him. McDougle is at his best when in zone coverage with the play in front of him.
Here, McDougle lines up showing man coverage, but he’s actually assigned with covering a deep zone.
McDougle uses a shuffle-slide technique to keep his eyes in the backfield while staying on top of the receiver.
That enables McDougle to see the throw the whole way and break on the ball when it’s delivered.
He jumps in front of the receiver and steals the interception. Impressively, McDougle manages to take the interception all the way back, nearly 50 yards for a touchdown.
McDougle struggles as a press corner. He wasn’t asked to do it in college too often. He has decent mirror skills in man coverage, but they still need work. Most of his snaps early on in his career will probably come in zone coverage until he develops his technique in man coverage. But McDougle will also contribute to special teams, which is something every late-round pick needs to do.
Maryland is on the receiving end of this punt. McDougle is tasked with slowing down the outside gunner.
McDougle gets his hands on the gunner early, forcing him outside towards the sideline.
By the time the ball is caught by the returner, McDougle has driven the gunner all the way to the sideline and completely out of the play.
Special teams was a real weakness of the Redskins last season. Anyone who can contribute on special teams will instantly have an impact, which is something McDougle can do. Being a core special teamer will give McDougle a chance to make the team and develop further as a corner.
Projection: Sixth round
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