The Cincinnati Bengals enter the NFL Draft with arguably their biggest need being at the cornerback position. Lucky for them, there's several corners in this year's draft class worthy of being the 24th-overall pick.
If they do go CB with their first pick, they need to be confident he can become the team's No. 2 or potentially even No. 1 CB in the future.
Terence Newman is likely gone after this year. He'll turn 36 in September, and frankly there's no guarantee he's on the opening 53-man roster.
Adam Jones will turn 31 in September, and after a so-so 2013 season, he needs to have a good 2014 campaign to ensure the Bengals pay his $1.9 million salary in 2015.
Leon Hall is as good as any corner in the league when he's healthy, but he's missed 20 combined games in the past three seasons. With new deals coming for A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict, he sadly could become a cap casualty in the future.
Worst-case scenario: All three of these guys could be gone by 2015.
Just this past season, the Bengals were one injury away from seeing Brandon Ghee starting and a practice squad player like Chris Lewis-Harris getting significant snaps. The secondary has to get younger and a CB needs to be taken early in this draft.
TCU's Jason Verrett has the ability to contribute right away.
He excels in man-to-man and zone coverage, is a solid tackler and has great speed off the edge when he blitzes or attempts to block field goals as he does in this video:
You'd be hard-pressed to watch his tape and say he was not the best CB in college football last year. His hand-eye coordination is superior to every other CB in this class, and that helps Verrett to break on the ball and rack-up pass deflections (had 30 PDs in past two years).
It doesn't hurt either that he;s one of the fastest players in this class, as evidenced by his 4.38 40-time he registered at the combine. He also registered a 39 inch vertical which was one of the best verticals of all players at the combine.
The problem is his height (5'9") and short arms (30 5/8") will likely prevent him from being able to defend taller and bigger receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.
My counter is this: While he will struggle against those bigger wideouts, so does Hall (only 5'10" tall), who when healthy, is one of the game's best corners.
Another problem with Verrett is durability. Though he rarely missed gametime, he had several procedures in college. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during '12 spring practice, but still went on to lead the Big 12 in interceptions (6) while also notching 63 tackles and 16 pass breakups with five tackles for loss and a blocked field goal in 13 starts.
Verrett is great at reading his receiver's route and running it for him to get in better position to make a play on the ball:
He did suffer a torn meniscus in his right knee against Texas but played in final two games before having surgery in January '13.
This past season, Verrett was named co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after registering 39 tackles, broke up 14 passes and grabbed 2 interceptions. He did all of this while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which he had the surgically repaired in March.
Despite his size and nagging injuries, Verrett continued to play with as physically as any CB prospect in this class. On clear running downs, Verrett was used in a similar role as a box safety, and he was a solid tackler coming of the edge.
While some would label Verrett as injury prone, the fact that he's able to battle through these injuries is a testament to his toughness and fortitude. That was evidenced by his willingness to participate in this year's NFL Scouting Combine, where he recorded 19 reps on the bench press, putting 225 pounds of weight on the same shoulder that was partially torn and set to have surgery on.
That's NFL-level toughness. Only 5 other CBs at the combine had more reps on the bench press. He should be a first-round pick, and he'll be in play for the Bengals at No. 24.
Having Verrett would also Hall to rehab his torn Achilles tendon and not be rushed into returning too soon. Over time, Hall could be moved back to the outside with Jones as Newman is phased-out.
Going into 2015, the Bengals could be set at CB with Hall, Jones, Kirkpatrick and Verrett. At worst, they'd have Verrett and Kirkpatrick, a decent foundation to build on.