Call it luck or a stroke of genius, but the Carolina Panthers mined a couple of large gold nuggets when they decided to use their first pick to select a defensive player in each of the past two drafts. Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei are already on their way to becoming cornerstones for a Panthers defense that is looking more dominant by the week. However, if the Panthers want to take their defense to an even higher level, they would do well to consider keeping that streak alive for the third year in a row, and I know just the guy.
The only thing that might catch your eye if you were passing by Jason Verrett on the street would be his well-developed dreadlocks. To be sure, there is nothing about his slight 5-Foot-9(1/2), 178-Pound stature that would suggest he is an elite college football player. But it would be a mistake to overlook him simply because of his size limitations. In doing so, you might just miss the fact that Verrett has many of the qualities which scouts and general managers look for in a shutdown cornerback.
You can see on tape that the California native excels in both press and zone coverage, with the former being his preferred approach. Although he lacks top end straight-line speed, his short area quickness is outstanding. Additionally, Verrett's backpedal is fluid and he flips his hips with ease, which allows him to mirror his opponent's every move. TCU isn't afraid to use Verrett on corner blitzes because he disguises his intentions very well. Moreover, he is not afraid to mix it up in run support and wraps up extremely well when tackling.
Many of those same strengths were on full display when he held former Oklahoma Sooners standout, Kenny Stills, to sixteen yards receiving last season(the next to worse game of his prolific three year stint with the Sooners).
Perhaps even more impressive was Verrett's performance in the first game of this 2013 season against LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, two of the best receivers in the SEC. Both of these wide-outs looked great when matched up against anybody but Verrett. By the end of the game, he had only given up 2 receptions of 8 and 14 yards to Beckham Jr, whom he covered the majority of the game. Verrett faced Landry just twice, but made the most of the only pass thrown his way by beautifully breaking up a sure touchdown at the goal line. All told, he finished the game with 7 tackles, 3 passes broken up and 1 sack. If ever there was a game to prove you belong, this was it, and he didn't disappoint.
Ultimately, cornerbacks who are in the 6-Foot-3, 6-Foot-4 range like Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Sean Smith are the prototypes that some of us envision when thinking of elite cornerbacks, but they are still the exception to the rule. Most elite cornerbacks will continue to be in the 6-Foot range.
From my perspective, Verrett has what it takes to be a #1 cornerback in this league despite his stature. At this point, I would be willing to use a late 1st rounder on him. How about you CSR? Before you judge a book by its cover, take a look at his stats and his stellar performance against LSU below.
CB Jason Verrett's Career Stats(So Far)