The 2021 NFL Draft features some extremely talented position groups, and potentially one of the strongest is the cornerbacks. And one player that could interest the Miami Dolphins is Alabama junior Patrick Surtain II.
The tall, outside playmaker has been a stud since his freshman season. With another small step forward and productive season in 2020, Surtain II could be a top-10 pick and one of the first defensive players removed from the board next April.
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A few big factors in the early success of Surtain II are his tremendous bloodlines and the tutelage of his father of the same name, Patrick Surtain. The older Surtain is a former eleven-year NFL veteran with the Kansas City Chiefs and aforementioned Dolphins. His son, nicknamed “PS2”, hopes to follow in his footsteps and make his way in the NFL very soon.
Below, I will discuss the Alabama cover man as the top cornerback prospect in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, his Pro Bowl father, and his best fit at the next level. Patrick Surtain II has the tools to become one of the best players at the position in the NFL, potentially for the Dolphins, and that journey continues in 2020.
Patrick Surtain Sr. started something great in Miami
A former attendee of the University of Southern Mississippi, Surtain Sr. was drafted in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. One of the better defensive backs in Dolphins’ franchise history, the elder Surtain compiled 29 interceptions during his seven dominant seasons with the team. This total ranks him fourth all-time and tied with fellow Miami defensive back Glenn Blackwood.
He was a three-time Pro Bowl player and a first team All-Pro selection in 2002 for the Dolphins. Surtain Sr. also formed one of the better cornerback duos in NFL history alongside fellow Dolphins’ great Sam Madison.
The two created massive headaches for quarterbacks and wide receivers of the AFC East during their seven years together. However, the ride ended when Surtain Sr. was dealt in a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs before the 2005 season.
Surtain Sr. also experienced great success with the Chiefs and retired following his release from the team in 2009. In 2016, the 11-year NFL veteran took over as the coach at American Heritage high school in Plantation, Florida. As the head coach for Heritage, Surtain Sr. was able to oversee the development of one of the greatest high school players in the country, his son, Patrick Surtain II.
The younger Surtain blazes his path at the college level
Surtain II became one of the most sought-after recruits in the country for the class of 2018 and eventually chose to play college football for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama. His size (6’2″) and advanced knowledge of the game at such a young age afforded Surtain II the chance to play early for the Crimson Tide. He stepped in as a true freshman and started an unprecedented 12 games for Saban in the Alabama secondary.
Early on, it was apparent that Surtain II belonged with the starters and amongst the greatest college football players in the land. He tallied 37 tackles, one interception, seven pass deflections, and a forced fumble during his first year in the lineup. Entering the 2019 season, Surtain II was a player on the rise and someone that scouts would be keeping very close tabs on moving forward.
The younger Surtain took a leap forward during the 2019 season, despite the respect he accumulated from quarterbacks and opponents of the Southeastern Conference. Surtain II continued his stellar play as one of the more physical players in the secondary for Alabama.
As a sophomore, he notched two interceptions, eight pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. Surtain II enters the 2020 season facing stiff competition from Ohio State’s Shaun Wade and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley for the top cornerback spot.
PS2’s best pro comparison not his father, but another standout ‘Bama defensive back
Aside from the obvious comparison to his father, Surtain II fits the mold of the new tall and physical press corner that has dominated the top of the NFL Draft in recent years. He is slightly taller than the elder Surtain and is less of a ballhawk than his old man. However, Surtain II is more advanced at this stage in his career and will step in as a starter on day one for an NFL team.
Surtain II began his career at Alabama as an outside corner before making the change to the famous “star” position for Saban as a sophomore. The “star” is a spot that Steelers’ safety Minkah Fitzpatrick made famous during his time with the Crimson Tide.
This hybrid role requires time at the nickel CB position, which is a different skill-set than boundary cornerbacks. This move improved the versatility of Surtain II as a defensive prospect in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
A comparison to Fitzpatrick makes sense based on his position flexibility within this defense, but Surtain II is a more natural CB prospect. When I watch Surtain II, I believe he has the upside of an up-and-coming Baltimore Ravens’ star, Marlon Humphrey. Both players are quick to diagnose, strong enough to jolt receivers from their routes and tackle very well from the position.
Patrick Surtain II could be continuing his dad’s legacy with the Dolphins
The Dolphins made a huge splash this offseason by signing former Cowboys’ cornerback Byron Jones. The team was extremely smart with this move and demonstrated clear intent by signing Jones to a 5-year deal worth $82.5 million. He is a top-5 player at the CB position with elite athleticism in the prime of his career.
Miami upgraded their defense in a big way by adding Jones to a secondary that already features shutdown cornerback Xavien Howard and versatile players like Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe.
Not to mention, the team returns surprising 2019 undrafted standout Nik Needham and 2017 third-rounder Cordrea Tankersley. This unit has the potential to be among the best in the league in 2020 for the Dolphins.
The idea that Miami’s secondary should be a strength for the team in 2020 should not deter their focus on upgrades in the 2021 NFL Draft. With the way the pass-happy NFL has developed in recent years, no organization can ever have enough good cover men and pass rushers. With that thought process and the fact that Miami has a bounty of draft picks once again, the team should be looking at the best player available scenario in 2021.
Can Patrick Surtain II be a chess piece for the Dolphins?
If the Dolphins land a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, they should heavily consider adding Patrick Surtain II to the mix in their ever-improving secondary. With his experience in the “star” position at Alabama, he would add great depth and even more flexibility to this unit.
The talented defensive back could be the versatile playmaker the team was looking for when they drafted his predecessor Fitzpatrick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Before being traded to the Steelers, Miami used Fitzpatrick in a variety of ways on this defense. Those uses included outside CB, nickel, and even linebacker in some sub-packages. Miami could start the younger Surtain at the nickel CB position and move him around like a chess piece to match up with some of the more explosive offenses in the AFC.
It would be an outstanding pick and should make Patrick Surtain Sr. proud to see “PS2” carry out his father’s legacy as a star with the Dolphins in 2021.
Scott Gorman is an NFL Draft writer and analyst for PFN covering the Miami Dolphins. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.