Measurements: Height- 6'0", Weight- 196 lbs
Projected Round: 5
Why he would be a good Redskin:
While Conner Vernon is regrettably a Duke player (excuse my bias, I'm a Terp for life), he has many characteristics, tools, and experience that would make him a good late round target for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. Shanahan likes high character guys in the late rounds of the draft and Vernon fits that description. Vernon was a 4-year starter at Duke, has a high football IQ, and was the leader for receptions and receiving yards in the ACC. Vernon has good measurements for a late round player, 6'0" height, 4.54 40-yard dash, and 32.5" vertical. Nothing too impressive in his measurable qualities, but his experience in college makes him an interesting prospect for the Redskins. Duke plays the read-option offense and Vernon was an important part to their offense.
In studying some of his film (primarily the Duke/Cincinnati Bowl game and Duke/Virginia game), he was the primary receiver in bubble-screen-plays, similar to the plays Robert Griffin III and Pierre Garcon connected for on big gains last season. He was also a good blocking receiver on running plays, he does not appear to give up on plays, and he relies on being a good route runner to get open. He demonstrated good downfield play creating some separation and he has reliable hands. Because he lacks burst, Vernon could be an ideal slot receiver, where his hands, route running, and ability to get open would be most useful. Vernon was also Duke's punt returner, so he could also contribute as a punt/kickoff returner in the NFL. Even though Vernon lacks elite speed, his reliable hands, route running, and quickness could make him an ideal red-zone threat.
Why he won't be drafted by the Redskins:
Vernon is not exactly a "sure-thing" prospect. He is quick and can run, but he lacks explosiveness and cannot accelerate downfield. Many scouts believe he has reached his ceiling and that the NFL's defensive backs could overmatch him. Also, the wide receiver position is not necessarily a "need" for the Redskins right now. Santana Moss is likely to be the primary slot receiver next season and Aldric Robinson has been potential to be the depth slot receiver behind Moss. The Redskins may want to use their 5th pick to improve depth in other areas. Vernon may also be drafted before the redskins pick in the 5th round. Because of the fascination with the read-option offense, his experience in the system could cause him to go earlier with teams that want to incorporate the read-option into their offensive schemes. Vernon is also ranked as a top 10 wide receiver prospects, so his stock could increase in the coming weeks before the draft.
While the Redskins need depth at other positions, Conner Vernon would be a solid 5th round pick. Based on Vernon's film, he has upside as a possible number 2 receiver because he made tough catches downfield in college. He could easily develop into a slot-receiver and create match-up problems for the linebackers over the middle because of his height. He is a quick, smart, and reliable receiver that could be a real difference maker over the middle. If Kirk Cousins starts of the year at Quarterback, Vernon's hands could make him Cousin's new best friend.