Jason Verrett


The NFL’s top prospects gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium over the past week to participate in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. The first opportunity for many potential draftees to showcase their raw talent in front of NFL scouts.


As always, some prospects stole the show and others failed to impress. Here is our list of prospects who stood out and those who flopped.


Standouts


DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)


Entering the combine, all eyes were on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but it was Aaron Donald who outshined Clowney. Some scouts believe that Donald is undersized at 6 feet, 285 pounds but he silenced many doubters with his combine performance. Donald ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, had a 32-inch vertical jump and put up 32 reps in the 225-pound bench press.


With his dazzling display, Donald has upped his stock to a mid-first round pick. 


CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) and CB Jason Verrett (TCU)


As wide receivers become stronger and faster, athletic defensive backs have become increasingly more desirable.


Justin Gilbert put himself on the map during the combine. Gilbert showcased great speed by running a 4.37 40-yard dash. Gilbert really stood out in the position drills. “He looked fluid in his transitions and turns while also exhibiting a quick and efficient backpedal,” NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks said.


Gilbert’s performance has put him in the conversation as a potential top-10 pick.


Already projected as a top defensive back in this year’s draft, Jason Verrett confirmed his standing with a great combine performance. Verrett ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical jump and showed off his athletic ability during his positional drills.


QB Blake Bortles (UCF)


Considered a hybrid quarterback, the spotlight was fixed on Blake Bortles as quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel chose not to throw at the combine.


Bortles didn’t disappoint. The big man displayed a smooth release and great footwork.

Although he wasn’t perfect - Bortles was late on a few passes and had some issues with the seven-step drop - his performance was enough to bring him into the conversation to be drafted by the Houston Texans with the first overall selection.


Flops


OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

Entering the combine, Cyrus Kouandijo was projected to be a first round draft pick but he failed his combine physical because of a knee injury. His 40 time was one of the lowest of the offensive tackles and he struggled during positional drills.


This was a huge blow to Kouandijo’s draft stock. Kouandijo will have a chance at redemption during Alabama’s pro day on March 12th.


QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)


Ranked as high as number one on draft boards, Teddy Bridgewater is considered the most polished quarterback in this year’s draft. But Bridgewater’s decision to forego most of the quarterback drills at the combine has caused scouts to question his ability.


Bridgewater will have a chance to prove himself when he goes through quarterback drills at Louisville’s pro day.


DE/OLB Michael Sam (Missouri)


Michael Sam gained worldwide attention after his recent coming-out. However, Sam didn’t impress during his combine workout. Sam ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and only jumped 25.5 in the vertical.


Sam was obviously frustrated during the combine but he seems to be prepared for the next level. “I’m a pass rusher," Sam said. "If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback.”


Sam will attempt to raise his draft stock at Missouri’s pro day.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Longhorns know they have a challenge on Saturday.

“For me, my side of the ball, TCU has an incredible defense, probably the best in our league, if not the best in college football right now,” senior quarterback Case
McCoy said.

And head coach Mack Brown made sure to note that, more specifically, TCU’s secondary is one of its most formidable units.

“They do a great job in the back end,” Brown said. “They do a great job matching routes. When they do disguise and play man, they do a great job playing man coverage.”

That great play Brown speaks of on the back end is in large part due to the outstanding play of senior cornerback Jason Verrett and junior safety Sam Carter. 

Few would argue against the assertion that Verrett is the best cornerback in the Big 12. He was a unanimous preseason All-Big 12 selection after being named a first-team All-American last year by SI.com. He led the Big 12 with 1.69 passes defended per game, the second-most in the country.

“It gives you confidence knowing you can line up with him on the best,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “He’s not the biggest corner, but he battles you and is smart about what he does. He learns on the field.”

While Verrett may be the Horned Frogs’ best NFL prospect on defense, he isn’t having the best statistical year on that side of the ball. That honor belongs to Carter. 

Carter, who burned the Longhorns last year with a forced fumble and a game-sealing interception, has gotten better since. He already has two sacks, a forced fumble and three picks, returning one for a touchdown. 

“Sam is an amazing guy,” Patterson said. “Our safeties get themselves in good positions because they are really smart football players.”

Verrett, his partner in crime, isn’t just a cover corner. He was ranked sixth in the NCAA last year with six interceptions and he recorded 63 tackles. He was the only player in the nation ranked in the Top 10 in interceptions and passes defended.

But, for the former high school running back, it almost never happened.

Verrett ended up learning how to play cornerback at Santa Rosa CC (Calif.) and did it well enough to be ranked as the nation’s No. 6 JUCO cornerback, according to rivals.com. 

The FBS interest didn’t follow, though, as he had expected.

He got no offers from a BCS school. A few from Mountain West schools such as Boise State, San Jose State and TCU, along with one from UTEP. Ultimately, he signed with the Horned Frogs.

His first start couldn’t have gone much worse.

Then-Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III threw six touchdown passes against the Horned Frogs — the first three coming at Verrett’s expense. That was two more touchdowns allowed in his first game at the FBS level as he had surrendered the prior year in junior college.

Verrett wanted to quit. 

He called his dad, mom, brother, former coach and Patterson to inform them his first game was going to be his last.

“I didn’t really wanna quit,” Verrett said a year later. “I was kind of lost. I was thinking of all the wrong things instead of just taking it as one game with 11 more to go.”

He learned from that game, one which Patterson still refers to as the “the one where [Verrett] wouldn’t come out from underneath the covers.” He handles adversity better. He’s learned to take things one game at a time.

Verrett is now a projected second-round pick in the NFL Draft and was named to the 2013 Lott Trophy watch list. He leads the team with 12 passes defended to go along with his one interception.

And, to think, he almost quit after his first game.