In his time in Fort Worth, TCU head coach Gary Patterson has been able to bring in some top level defensive player to his program and currently he seems to have a pair of them on his roster this year. One of them, Devonte Fields, could be one of the best pass rushers in his class when he is eligible for the NFL Draft. The other is one of the best cornerbacks in the country in Jason Verrett. He had a terrific junior year and has carried it over into his senior season. In many ways, Verrett plays like a consummate pro and consistently delivers a high level performance with little variation game to game.
Verrett has great vision, tremendous instincts and is able to contribute in all areas of the game for the Horned Frog defense. He is a terror in coverage, whether man or zone, with the ability to make plays on the football. While he has been a productive run defender, his tackling has improved, but he could use additional strength going forward. Still, the only thing that could keep Verrett out of the first round might be his height if he is shorter than listed as well as questions about his upside going forward, but even if he goes into the NFL and does not improve at all, he is a great player and an asset on an NFL roster for a long time.
Vitals & Build
Verrett is listed at 5’10” 176lbs and while he just might play low to the ground, the height appears generous. He possesses terrific feet, body control, and acceleration. His strength is not great but he has some habits that make him look weaker in terms of functional strength than he probably is. The best asset Verrett appears to have is his combination of vision and how fast he reacts off of what he sees. Both appear uncanny and the combination makes for a truly special athlete that looks and plays faster on the field and makes him cover a tremendous amount of ground. Verrett appears able to continue adding strength and if that strength brings him more confidence, that could be the key for him. Beyond that, he is an impressive athlete that has some gifts that simply cannot be taught.
Last year, Verrett had the ability to be a good tackler and showed technique at times but too often would resort to throwing his body at opponents, which had a feast or famine feel to them. This year, Verrett has done more to be a consistent form tackler and the results are far better. When he is in position to make a tackle, he makes it. He is not overpowering opponents but even against players with a size advantage, he is able to get them down to the ground. As long as he does not get into bad habits, which have not shown up much this year, he can really be an asset in that part of his game.
While he is not an ideal tackler, he does do a terrific job of diagnosing and reacting to the run call. As a result, he is able to get in and make plays before blockers do at times and make the tackle before the play develops.
Verrett can do a nice job with taking on and shedding blocks. He is perfectly comfortable to slip blocks without taking himself out of the play and that keeps opponents honest and enables him to use his hands and at least not give up any ground. Verrett is also able to use his hands to negotiate blocks and get past them. If he can continue to do this and get better at it as a senior, it could make a huge difference for his ability to be an effective run defender in the NFL. There are certainly times when Verrett is just bodied out by a good technical blocker with more size If he could bring that type of patience and technique to his tackling, he could be a complete run defender despite his size.
Even at his size, teams could do much worse than Verrett playing the strong side corner spot, but he is better suited to play the weak side. From that spot, he could have a significant advantage.
Verrett has great feet, quickness and the fluidity to be a tremendous asset in man coverage. He is routinely in the hip pocket of opponents and can run with them step for step. Occasionally, he will get beaten by double moves but he can lock on and shut down opponents with the ability to make plays on the football if teams insist on throwing at him anyway. There are times when Verrett will run the route for his man.
Verrett is able to play low to the ground and has a good backpedal with the ability to shift and drive on the ball. If he cannot get to the interception, he is often able to get in and deflect the pass. Outside of the occasional double move, if Verrett is going to be beaten, it is going to be underneath and not down the field. He can lull opponents into a false sense of security at times and then make a big play.
As good as Verrett is in man coverage, he might actually be better in zone. His athleticism, especially when it comes to his ability to see the field and process information in a way that makes the game look like it is slower for him than anyone else on the field. He has the awareness and appears to put in the film study where he can anticipate what the opponent is running and beat them to the spot. This puts a huge emphasis on opponents to run extremely crisp routes and makes it so they can never take the ball coming to them for granted. If they make a bad assumption and try to let the ball come to them, Verrett may cut underneath and take it the other direction.
When he is facing the line of scrimmage, he is able to keep track of opposing receivers and where the quarterback is looking to throw the ball. He sees the field like a great quarterback does and seems to know where everything is going. Combine that vision with an impressive ability to drive on the football and Verrett is someone who is able to get in position to make plays on the football and potentially cause turnovers. He sees the field well enough where he drives on the football when thrown to receivers he is not covering, so he is that much of a bigger threat when it comes to zone coverage. If he is not able to get to the play to make a play on the ball, he is at least able to minimize the damage from the run after the catch.
Verrett has good ball skills and pretty natural hands, so that he is always a threat to make a play. As was mentioned earlier, the game appears to be slower for him than most anyone else on the field and this is part of it. He seems to have such good vision and part of it is his ability to concentrate and react to the football. As a result, he is making the interceptions in crowded areas and has not been able to have a big return yet. He had more total return yards on his one interception as a sophomore than he had in his six as a junior.
Because of his ability to make plays in off man and zone, even if teams try to avoid him, he has a knack for finding a way to make plays, so it will be interesting to see how many opportunities he has as a senior to cause turnovers.
Blitzing off the Edge
Verrett has experience coming off of the edge and does a great job. He has the ability to be lined out wide and come on the attack with good acceleration. Verrett can build up a decent head of steam and hit with more power than some might expect, but he has shown that even when dwarfed by the quarterback, he can get them to the ground.
Verrett is a good fit in just about any scheme defensively except maybe press. Though he can play man coverage, his best fit might be in a primarily zone scheme or a combo scheme that likes to mix up coverages. Verrett is just so good facing the line of scrimmage and with the ability to break on the ball and make plays, whether they are thrown in his area or not. He could end up playing on the strong side despite his size, but Verrett might be even better if he ends up on the weak side. It is difficult to say there is anything he cannot do and it comes down to what he does the best, but it could be an extremely competitive field to get his services in the draft.
Verrett’s game may look quite similar to that of Brandon Flowers of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both are underappreciated and are great at the corner position despite being small. Flowers and Verrett also have a knack for getting their hands in on quite a few plays whether it be pass break ups or interceptions.
Verrett is largely NFL ready right now but further development when it comes to gaining strength and becoming a better tackler could help him take another step forward. He is already a dynamic coverage threat as a corner in just about any scheme and could be a great player at the next level. The issues that could potentially hold Verrett back will be his size and questions about how much better he can get in the NFL. Nevertheless, Verrett warrants a first round pick and while he might not be as flashy as some of the other corners in this draft, he could end up being the best.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com