When you hear the term “college football factory,” the University of Alabama is often at the top of the list of names you think of. Since the year 2000, Alabama has produced the second most players drafted by NFL teams with 127 total.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide produced nine players in the selection process, four of them landing in the first round alone. This draft cycle is sure to fill the NFL with another talented crop of Crimson Tide players across the league. One of those players may squarely be in range for the Falcons in the event of a trade down in the first round. Today, we will hone in on the skill set of Patrick Surtain Jr., and how he can help form an elite cornerback duo for years to come in Atlanta.
Patrick Surtain II scouting report
Weight: 208 pounds
Career stats: 116 total tackles, six tackles for loss, four interceptions, 24 pass deflections, four forced fumbles
Games watched: 2019 vs. South Carolina, 2019 vs. Michigan, 2020 vs. Georgia, 2020 vs. Auburn, 2020 vs. Florida, 2020 vs. Ohio State
The surname alone is enough to grab your attention. The son of a well-respected ex-NFL corner, Surtain has fine tuned a very polished, fundamentally sound skill set during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. This past season, Surtain earned first team AP All-American honors as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Surtain’s frame is impressive and he uses it well with his ability to be physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Surtain is able to showcase loose hips in transition and can stick with receivers and make the proper breaks when they reach the top of their route stem. Surtain’s route recognition is superb and he is rarely, if ever, caught off guard with double moves or head fakes. He shows confidence in his technical ability to trust what is in front of him and not allow receivers to break plays over the top.
While he played primarily press-man coverage at Alabama, Surtain’s length and size comes in handy when assigned to play off-man or zone coverage. When in zone, Surtain obtains proper reads and reacts swiftly enough to make a play on the ball. A very refined, sound tackler, Surtain does not shy away from run defense assignments and is willing to eat up space and close in on ball carriers. In 13 games played last season, Surtain allowed just 21 receptions for 273 yards. He profiles as a true lockdown corner.
With a prospect as clean-cut as Surtain, there really are not many holes in his game. One red flag of his (that is fixable) is his tendency to face guard receivers and play with his back to the line of scrimmage. This is a small issue but one that can easily garner a flag or two along the way with NFL officials.
In addition, the long speed for Surtain is a question mark. Keep in mind that Surtain was rarely tested in recent seasons, let alone tested deep by opposing offenses. He has shown decent burst to close in on dig routes, outs, and short curls. Can his long speed show up on go routes or stop-and-goes against elite receivers such as DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, or Tyreek Hill at the next level? That remains a true question mark.
Selecting within the top-10 of the NFL Draft is a unique territory for the Falcons. If they were to somehow stay within this range of the draft, they will surely walk away with a potentially elite, game-changing talent. With the current state of their roster, they can use a little injection of that kind of talent.
Plenty of rumors swirl as to what the Falcons will do at fourth overall. In the event they trade down with the Denver Broncos or Dallas Cowboys, they will be in range to capitalize on the value of a defender like Patrick Surtain Jr.
Depending who you converse with, Surtain Jr. is considered either the best cornerback in the draft or one of the best. While that may be debatable, his polished skill set is not. Surtain Jr. is a refined prospect with plenty of experience and is able to matchup with a number of the best receivers in the NFL.
Inserting him opposite second-year corner A.J. Terrell will undoubtedly give the Falcons one of the best young corner duos in the league for a long time. For those that appreciated the Trufant/Alford duo in recent seasons, a pairing of Surtain/Terrell can be scary good. All in all, Surtain is an elite prospect and could be there for the taking for the Falcons if they somehow stay in the top half of the first round.