There are two groups of players that generate a lot of buzz among draft fans; Alabama defensive backs and sons of former NFL players. Patrick Surtain Jr. will check off both of those boxes as he looks to be the first cornerback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Is his pedigree and chance to shine in the SEC spotlight enough to put him ahead of the other cornerback options?[sv slug=”vegas”]
Surtain’s NFL pedigree
If you’ve followed the NFL for some time, you’ll recognize the name Patrick Surtain. The elder Surtain was drafted 44th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 1998 out of Southern Mississippi, playing 11 seasons in the NFL. That includes seven years with the Dolphins and four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. Over his 11-year career, Surtain played in 163 games, making 131 starts, while racking up 547 tackles, 37 interceptions, and 7.5 sacks. Now his son is looking to put together a junior season at Alabama which will put him on the path to a similar career as his father.
Surtain’s Case for CB1
The current outlook is that there will be some very good cornerbacks entering the NFL Draft in 2021, but Surtain has the ability to stand tall amongst the others. Surtain is listed at 6’2″, 203 pounds on Alabama’s website. That certainly already gives him an advantage, as he’ll have the size to take on a lot of the bigger receivers you see now in the NFL.
Surtain has already demonstrated versatility, having been used in multiple ways in the Alabama defense. He can play on the outside, but can also move inside against slot receivers. Surtain has demonstrated excellent ability when lined up outside in man coverage and does a fantastic job of using the sidelines to his advantage. A good description of Surtain’s play is “sticky”. He sticks well to his receivers and doesn’t often allow them to create much separation.
As well as being a good defender on the perimeter, he has also demonstrated the ability to line up inside and step up to support the Crimson Tide run defense in the box. The numbers from his first two years at Alabama demonstrate the potential he has going forward, with contributions all over the board.
What others are saying about him
Matt Valdovinos recently looked at a number of cornerbacks that are expected to rank among the top group at the position for next year. This is what he wrote about Surtain:
“Surtain has all the physical gifts teams require in a first-round cornerback, and he’s not just physical tools. Surtain utilizes his length at all times, but most prominently when the ball’s in the air. To this point, he’s already accumulated 15 pass deflections and three interceptions. He’s displayed elite ball skills, and he’s a turnover machine. Not only is he a threat to catch an interception, but he’s always aware of where the ball is on a ball carrier and has already mastered the ‘peanut punch,’ made famous by Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman.
The ‘peanut punch’ is punching the ball at the right moment and angle, effectively knocking it out of the ball carrier’s hands. Doing this, Surtain has forced four fumbles in his career. He’s a willing tackler and has made a number of big hits in his short career. He’s well developed and refined, while also possessing excellent physical abilities and production. Expect Surtain to be one of the first cornerbacks drafted if he declares in 2021.”
Neal Driscoll recently did a two-round mock draft for 2021 and already has Surtain as a top-five selection, mocking him fifth to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“The Jaguars traded Jalen Ramsey and are rumored to be releasing A.J. Bouye prior to the 2020 season. Replacing this tandem won’t be an easy task. Patrick Surtain Jr. is the son of former Miami Dolphins great Patrick Surtain. However, he may be even more talented than his father.”
There’s also a lot of love for Surtain from his peers at Alabama. Defensive backs Shyheim Carter and Xavier McKinney talked at the combine about both his length and his strength in the backfield. They both raved about the ability of Surtain and how key he has been so far in the Alabama defense.
When you combine the pedigree, the height, the play we have seen on tape, and the glowing reports from his teammates, it all paints a picture of a player with the talent to be the top cornerback option in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he can put together a strong junior season at Alabama in 2020, then we could be talking about Surtain as a top-10 pick this time next year.