I’ve had my doubts over the past few weeks, but the more tape I watch, the more I believe his height won’t factor into his NFL future with the Chargers.
Verrett was arguably the best cover corner prospect in the NFL Draft and his combination of athleticism, speed and physicality bodes well for him as he transitions from college to the pros. If Verrett was two inches taller he would’ve been the first cornerback taken, but teams overlooked his potential due to his size.
This is a copycat league. NFL teams look at the emergence of the ‘big corner’ that has been implemented by the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and want to mirror their roster development. It’s hard to argue with them, but there will always be a place in the NFL for the undersized corner.
Let’s look at a few of the smaller cornerbacks in the NFL and how they’ve fared over their careers. First, Antoine Winfield (5-foot-9, 180-pounds) had a very good 14-year career with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and a short stint with the Seahawks. He recorded 27 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, made three Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro once over that span.
Captain Munnerlyn (5-foot-9, 195-pounds) turned a seventh-round selection in the NFL Draft (2009 by Carolina Panthers) into a three-year, $14.25 million contract this offseason with the Vikings. Over the past two seasons, Munnerlyn made four interceptions and returned all of them for touchdowns.
Now let’s look at two of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the past couple years in Brandon Flowers (5-foot-9, 187-pounds) and Tim Jennings (5-foot-8, 185-pounds). Both were second-round draft selections due to their lack of size, but they’ve proven to play bigger than advertised.
Flowers has been a staple for the Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense since 2008. He’s recorded 17 interceptions in his career and made his first Pro Bowl last season. Jennings has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, making two straight Pro Bowls with the Chicago Bears. While only playing in 14 games in 2012, Jennings still led the league with nine interceptions.
All of these cornerbacks have proven to play at a high level in the NFL even though they lack the prototypical size for a cornerback. While Verrett has similar measurables to these corners, he has shown to have superior speed and athleticism to make him top-tier corner. He goes 100 percent on every play, and that’s what caught Tom Telesco‘s eye.
The one thing Verrett needs to do is gain about five to 10 pounds so his body can hold up with his tenacious and physical playing style. Besides that, I don’t see any reason why he won’t become a Pro Bowl corner for the Chargers in the future.
The Chargers have had few safeties selected to the Pro Bowl over the past decade and a half (Eric Weddle, Ryan McNeil, Rodney Harrison), but corner is a different story.
San Diego has struggled mightily when it comes to drafting corners, but Verrett has an opportunity to change that. The last Chargers’ cornerback to be selected to the Pro Bowl was Antonio Cromartie in 2007. Before that it was Gill Byrd in 1992. I see that changing in the next couple years.