If you ask any draft expert, they’ll put Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II at the top of the 2021 cornerback trio. So I decided to evaluate the supposed top corner in the draft for all teams to enjoy.
Similar to Jaycee Horn, the South Carolina product, Surtain II is the son of a former NFL star. So once again, the League runs in his blood. Out of high school, Surtain II was a 5-star recruit and took his talents to Nick Saban’s Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, Surtain II was a 3-year starter. This, as expected, is an incredibly impressive feat. For three years, Surtain II has started for one of the best teams in college football playing in the toughest conference. He started 38 straight games.
His career earned him some very high commendations. A unanimous 2020 All-American; SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2020); First Team All-SEC (2020); Thorpe Award Finalist.
Currently, Surtain II measures in at 6’2”, 203 pounds. He’s built to play corner and not be outsized by the larger receivers in the league.
Surtain II is big, but it doesn’t hinder him. He’s still quick on his feet, with great closing speed. His quickness allows him to close on balls and receivers to make plays in the short passing game. With fluid hips and a low center of gravity when playing, Surtain II plays fundamentally sound. Fluidity is always a key trait when evaluating cornerbacks and safeties. When it comes to the more elite route runners in the League, someone built like Surtain II can keep up with the trickier routes and fakes. He can transition quickly from a backpedal or shuffle into a trail technique.
Long arms allow him to play the ball or the receiver from anywhere. He can box out and play underneath the receiver. He can knock out balls from behind. He can recover and jump routes from the front or the back.
What puts him technically above Jaycee Horn is his hand usage. Covered previously, Horn can be a little too handsy which will put him at risk for pass interferance penalities or holdings more often than ideal. Surtain II on the other hand knows when to get hands on and when to get hands off. He can be physical with physical receivers, and play through when they initiate contact. But he has the technical fundamentals to play off, or work in off-coverage.
He’s also a better tackler. Whereas Horn likes to drop the shoulder and aim for the legs, Surtain II wraps up. Even when given the chance to knock some heads in the backfield on swing routes, he’s smart enough to wrap up and make the play itself instead of getting sidetracked. In the open field, it’s no different. Surtain II is a fundamentally better tackler.
Lastly, his patience and football IQ are impressive. He’s mature enough to stick to his responsibilities and let the play develop as expected. Quarterbacks can’t look him off or out of his responsibilities. He has a good idea of what routes are coming, and what play is coming. He can drive slant routes in off-man or zone because he knows they are coming. Discipline and a willingness to commit to the right fundamentals is a maturity thing. Surtain II will play his role properly.
Against faster receivers, Surtain II struggled. His projected 40-time is somewhere in the mid 4.5 range. A good pro day however could put all of that to rest. A 4.3-4.4 would be ideal.
Ultimately, the things that separate Surtain II from other cornerbacks are things that can be coached. He’s not generationally leaps and bounds above Horn or Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. But he has been impressive at Alabama. Ultimately, because of his accolades, Surtain II will likely be the first corner off the board. Whoever drafts him will be grabbing a day 1 starter who can play man, off-man, and zone. He’s been experienced in the slot, but plays better on the boundary. He uses the sideline well to create that 12th defender.
With the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year attached to his name, along with a Thorpe Award finalist, Surtain II is probably the safest bet at cornerback. He has film of multiple productive seasons. He’s been a consistent starter at Alabama.
With a good pro day, Surtain II locks himself as the best corner in the draft. Look for him to go somewhere around 10-15.