Third Round's a Charm

The Chargers have kicked the tires of several cornerbacks, including first-round candidate Devin McCourty and second-round prospect Brandon Ghee. But with San Diego's first two picks likely to be spent on a running back and a nose tackle, this third-round prospect may be the one to watch.

Alterraun Verner's not the biggest cornerback in this draft. Nor is he the fastest.

What he is is one of the most productive.

Verner intercepted 13 passes in his career at UCLA, including five during an All-American senior season.

At 5-foot-10, Verner lacks the elite size the Chargers covet at the position. And with a 40-yard time of 4.52 seconds, he's not a speed merchant. Nonetheless, the Chargers could give heavy consideration to the high-character player should he fall to the bottom of the third round.

Verner enjoyed all-around productivity with the Bruins. A three-year starter in predominately a man-to-man scheme, Verner scored five career touchdowns (four on interceptions, one on a blocked field goal). While lacking ideal size and strength, Verner was presence on run defense with at least 72 tackles in each of the last three seasons.

Despite his consistent production, Verner is lacking the buzz of the "elite" cornerbacks in this draft. He ranks 15th in this deep, deep class of cornerbacks, according to draft analyst Chris Steuber. Nonetheless, insiders say Verner's stock is rising among the teams.

"I guess I'm a little bit surprised by the lack of hype," Verner said. "But, all in all, that's kind of been the story of my life. Coming out of high school, I was quietly recruited. Coming out of college, it's basically the same thing as this, so I'm not stranger to it. With the way my life has been, I probably should just expect it."

Scouts like Verner's playmaking ability, toughness, intelligence and character.

"They see myself being in the league for quite some time because they think I'll do the right thing," he said.

Additionally, Verner has the type of character the Chargers prefer in their players. A three-time all-academic selection in the Pac-10, Verner enjoys working with his former youth football program, the Carson (Calif.) Colts, or going to elementary and middle schools to talk to students about the importance of working hard in the classroom and not just athletics.

"It's something I enjoy," he said. "I love helping people. That's really an easy way for me to do it, just to give a small part of my time in talking to people and just giving them my life background, my life story, and helping them to reach their goals or at least having them strive to be the best that they can be. Just giving people that hope. Sometimes, that's all they need is just a little hope, a little encouragement, and seeing it from me, hopefully would help take them over that hump."

Along with UCLA's pro day, the Chargers kept a close eye on Verner at the East-West all-star game. His timed speed is a concern — though his three-cone drill tied for second among the corners at the Combine — but as scouts go back and watch the tape, Verner's stock is rising. Along with his impressive senior season, he had four interceptions and led the country with 20 passes defensed as a junior.

"It's going to be so surreal," he said of being drafted. "I just know that growing up and watching the draft and hoping that one day I'd get an opportunity to see my name across the screen or get that phone call. It really has been a dream since I was about 7 or 8. It's going to be so crazy that I can't even put words to describe it right now. It's going to be a relief to know I made it — but the work's still not over."

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