The Denver Broncos currently sit with an 0-3 record as they head into their Week 4 matchup against the New York Jets, and with injuries continuing to mount for the Broncos, this season is starting to look gloomy. However, it’s never too early to look at some potential 2021 NFL Draft prospects who could help turn the Broncos around in next season, when they’ll potentially have a clean bill of a health. After drafting Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Broncos general manager John Elway may find himself eyeing up another Crimson Tide prospect in selecting cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Surtain II, the son of former Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, is a top cornerback prospect entering this year’s draft class. The talented cornerback looks poised to be a potential top-five selection if he has a productive 2020 season. After a successful 2019 campaign, that saw him record two interceptions, eight passes defended, and three forced fumbles, could Surtain rank near the top of the Broncos draft targets as they look for answers to rebuild their secondary in 2021?
Why Patrick Surtain II is an ideal fit for the Broncos
To put it simply, if the Broncos have their hearts set on rebuilding their decimated secondary, it starts with selecting Patrick Surtain II in the NFL Draft. Surtain possesses a beautiful blend of size and speed, combined with a pro-level technique as a boundary cornerback.
He is exceptionally patient with receivers and does a fantastic job of allowing receivers to “tell” their routes for him. Surtain has shown the ability to play several techniques, including press and off-coverage, and play them both with discipline.
One of the biggest positives to Surtain’s game is his willingness and aggressiveness when attacking the football, whether it be in the air or the arms of the ball carrier. With four forced fumbles in two full seasons as a starting corner, it shows that he poses a physical threat for receivers and running backs alike. Surtain’s 15 pass breakups also show his ability to play the ball well in the air. In a defensive scheme like Vic Fangio’s, Surtain would have plenty of opportunities to make a play on the ball.
The Broncos have been in desperate need of quality cornerback play dating back to the 2019 season. After losing their long-time stalwart in Chris Harris Jr., the team attempted to replace him by trading for A.J. Bouye. Unfortunately, Bouye’s career in Denver started with a shoulder injury in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans and has held him out of action since. Denver has struggled to stop the passing game this season, allowing an average of 277.6 passing yards per game, the fourth-most in the league through the first three weeks. Without quality players in the secondary, the Broncos will continue to be picked apart through the air.
The emergence of Michael Ojemudia bodes well for 2021
With Bouye out, Bryce Callahan has been handling duties on the outside and in the slot, but another cornerback has emerged as a potential star down the road that the team could pair with a player like Surtain. Rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia has stood out in his extended playing time through the first three games of the season, even though he has given up some big plays. In Week 1, Ojemudia was tasked with covering second-year receiver A.J. Brown and did a reasonably good job at it outside of his late pass interference penalty.
With Ojemudia playing the way he has been this season, it could mean big things for the future of the Broncos’ secondary if they were to select Surtain in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ojemudia is a perfect fit for Fangio’s defensive scheme, and with Surtain’s skillset and familiar NFL bloodlines, it could make for a dangerous pairing. With Ojemudia and Surtain playing on the outside, it would allow for Callahan to play more in the slot, which better suits his ability.
By drafting a cornerback anywhere inside the top 10 of the NFL Draft, it would indicate that the team could move on from Bouye after just one season in Denver. By trading or releasing the veteran, the team could save about $13.5 million in cap space, which could be a good chunk of change if the salary cap does not adjust to a higher number in 2021. Trusting the young tandem of Ojemudia and Surtain would be a significant risk, but it might be a risk worth taking, especially with Bouye’s price tag and his injury this season.
Would it be wise to take Patrick Surtain with a top five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
With plenty of needs across the Broncos’ roster, cornerback remains a position of dire need going into 2021. With the possibility of moving on from Bouye and the overall lack of quality depth in the position group, the Broncos could find themselves with a top-five pick in the NFL Draft. Cornerback would likely be a position in serious consideration.
Since 2015, only two cornerbacks have been selected in the top five picks of the draft: Jeff Okudah and Jalen Ramsey.
While Surtain would be an ideal fit for the Broncos’ secondary that is struggling, it would be difficult to see them shy away from selecting a potential starting linebacker or offensive tackle, as those are two areas of need as well. However, with the Kansas City Chiefs appearing to run away with the division yet again, the Broncos must do whatever they can to keep up with the high-flying offenses around the league. Drafting Surtain in the NFL Draft is the first step for the Broncos to start “keeping up with the Mahomes.”