Every coach you talk to in the league initially says they do not like comparing draft prospects to NFL players because the college players have not played in the NFL.
But all scouts in their evaluations of draft prospects try to find a player comparison to help others in their organization see how that player will potentially translate to the NFL.
For San Diego Chargers first-round draft pick Jason Verrett, it’s hard to compare the TCU product to players in the league because there are not many 5-foot-9 cornerbacks.
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano compared Verrett to former New York Jets cornerback Mark McMillian and Miami Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan because of their athleticism and feisty, competitive natures.
Verrett compared his skill set to playmaking defensive backs like Tyrann Mathieu and Asante Samuel. That said, I wanted to point to a couple NFL players -- two on the high end and one on the low end -- who might compare to Verrett’s size and skill set.
What the Chargers want: Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins -- At 5-10 and 190 pounds, Grimes was an undrafted rookie free agent for the Falcons in 2006 out of little known Division II Shippensburg University, and rose up the depth chart to earn a starting job. Now with Miami, the Philadelphia native is one of the most athletic cornerbacks in the league, proving that he can consistently make plays against bigger receivers on the perimeter. A two-time Pro Bowler, Grimes has 17 career interceptions and 73 pass breakups in seven NFL seasons. But Grimes has had durability issues, missing most of the 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon. Grimes did not give up a touchdown in 2013.
What the Chargers do not want: Alphonso Smith, Detroit Lions -- At 5-9 and 193 pounds, the Denver Broncos fell in love with Smith as he fell down the draft board. Denver moved up in the second round to select the Wake Forest product at No. 37 in the 2009 draft. The Broncos gave up a 2010 first-round pick to the Seahawks to select him. That draft pick turned into Earl Thomas. Smith struggled to consistently get on the field in Denver. The Broncos traded Smith to Detroit the following year for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski. In four NFL seasons, Smith started 11 games, finishing with eight interceptions and 19 pass breakups. Smith spent 2013 out of the league.
What the Chargers could get: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals -- Selected in the third round by the Cardinals in the 2013 draft, Mathieu proved worth the risk for Arizona. The LSU product came with some off-the-field issues, but at 5-9 and 186 pounds, the “Honey Badger” can line up all over the secondary. In his rookie season, Mathieu was used mostly at free safety, but showed that he can make plays at this level. Mathieu finished with 68 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in 11 starts. The Chargers can use Verrett in a similar manner as a zone defender/blitzer in the middle of the field on passing situations. It’s the same reason St. Louis moved up into the second round to draft versatile Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, also considered small for a defensive back at 5-8 and 185 pounds.