In a wild first round of this year’s NFL draft that seemed to have as many trades as actual picks, the San Diego Chargers were one of the few teams to wait patiently for their number to be called before picking a player.
That player turned out to be, as many people suspected, the best cornerback left after three others were taken in the previous 24 picks.
The newest Charger is the 5-foot-9 Jason Verrett, a tough (but undersized) speedster who’s had a fantastic college football career. Should you be excited? Well, yes and no.
First, the bad news. Cornerbacks this short typically don’t have long careers as starters, and will usually end up playing nickel cornerback. However, teams don’t spend first-round draft picks on getting a good nickel cornerback, and that certainly isn’t the goal of Chargers’ general manager Tom Telesco with this pick.
Are there short cornerbacks who succeed as starters in the NFL? Absolutely. They’re just few and far between when compared to their taller peers, because the level of difficulty is ramped up when you’re giving up five or more inches to every guy you’re trying to defend. This is one of the big reasons Verrett was viewed as the fourth best cornerback in the draft instead of first.
Another reason Verrett was available when the Chargers were drafting? Injuries. Verrett isn’t afraid to throw his body around, even when going up against larger competition, which sometimes ends badly for him. He tore his labrum early in the 2013 season and played through it for the rest of the year, which showed great toughness but also suggested he might be dinged up often in the NFL where the players hit harder and the play is much faster.
Now, the good news: Verrett is really good. Not only did he lead the Big 12 in defended passes in both of the last two seasons, and shut down some of college football’s best wide receivers. He also won the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Award and was a semifinalist for a couple other awards given to the best defensive back in college. As far as performance on the field goes, it’d be hard to find someone with more impressive game tape than Verrett. If anyone is going to have a chance at being a short cornerback who thrives in the NFL, it’s probably this guy.
So, the Chargers got what you’d expect to get with the 25th pick: a player with some flaws and a high ceiling. The draft continues with the second and third rounds tonight, starting at 4 p.m. PST, before doing the final four rounds on Saturday. As it stands, the Chargers have one pick in each of the remaining six rounds.
You’re reading the Sports Report, our weekly compilation of news and information for the San Diego sports fan.
Same Old Quiet Bats for the Padres
Move the fences in or move them out – it doesn’t seem to matter. Buddy Black’s Padres will never be able to hit the ball, I’ve decided.
It’s actually amazing that the team is 15-21, in fourth place in the National League West division and 7.5 games out of first place, with the offense as bad as it has been. The team is second to last in Offensive WAR (-.4) ahead of only the Houston Astros (-1.0).
Their .214 batting average is also worst in the league, and actually puts them behind a Houston Astros team that is not actually trying to win games (yet). The only run scored in 11 innings by the Padres in a 3-1 loss to the Miami Marlins last night was a home run hit by the pitcher, Ian Kennedy.
So, how have they done it? How do they win any games at all? As usual, the pitching has been good bordering on great. The team finishes in the middle of the pack in pitching WAR, and in the top 5 in FIP (a stat that measures pitching while taking fielding out of the equation). Which isn’t to say the fielding has been bad, as the team is currently 12th in the league in defensive WAR (despite some troubles at SS).
Can you play with half of a baseball team? Can you compete without an offense? No, you can’t. With some good managing and good luck, you can find yourself six games under .500 after playing just 36 games. It’s impressive, considering, but it will never put fans in the seats and it won’t help get the team back in the playoffs. The Padres, and Black, have their fingers crossed that Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin bring some offense with them when they return to the team this week, because so far there hasn’t been enough to save Buddy’s job past this season.
News and Notes
• The Padres tried something new with their broadcast this week. Mark Grant and Dick Enberg announced the game from the field level instead of up in the press box. It did not go exceptionally well.
• At what point do we stop applauding a Tyrannosaurus Rex throwing out the first pitch at a Padres game and start running for our lives?
• It is likely the Chargers will draft a wide receiver today or tomorrow, and it’s likely that wide receiver will have a successful NFL career.
• Do the Chargers need to draft an offensive guard? Maybe not, after looking through the game film of Johnnie Troutman.
Stories You May Have Missed
• While the Chargers try to figure out exactly how they’re going to get a new stadium in San Diego, let us reflect on the time Los Angeles built the Dodgers a stadium inside of a mountain.
• ESPN was obsessed with Johnny Manziel during the first round of the NFL Draft.
• This tool that Deadspin made, showing you how often certain words are used to describe white football players against black football players, is stunning.
• GIF of the Week: Maybe the craziest goal I’ve ever seen in a soccer game.
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