Our Scouting Report Series continues where we break down the top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today we are talking about the best press-man cornerback prospect in the entire draft. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!

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Justin FieldsN/AJa’Marr ChaseN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Zach Wilson DeVonta Smith       
Trey Lance

Measurables

Height: 6’2

Weight: 202 pounds

A look at Patrick Surtain’s College Performance

Patrick Surtain II was a 5-star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. According to 247 Sports, Patrick Surtain was the #1 cornerback in his class and the #6 overall recruit in the nation. Surtain opted for Alabama over LSU, Miami and Clemson in order to play for legendary head coach Nick Saban. Championships are everything to Surtain, who opted for Alabama after winning 3 state titles at American Heritage football team.

Surtain entered Alabama with immense expectations and simply did not disappoint. He started 12 of his 15 games and notched 28 tackles, an interception, 7 passes defended and a forced fumble during his true freshman season. He was a key cog to a defense that held offenses to just 138.5 passing yards through the final 6 games of the regular season. To detail how impressive he was in his freshman season, Surtain did not allow a single touchdown in 772 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.

Patrick Surtain started all 13 games as a sophomore, registering 42 tackles, 8 passes broken up, 3 forced fumbles and two interceptions. As a senior, his dominance continued. According to Pro Football Focus, he had the highest grade of any FBS cornerback during his sophomore and junior seasons.

While he typically thrives in press coverage, Surtain was incredibly impressive down the field his senior season. Surtain allowed only one reception 25 yards or more.

During the 2020 CFP National Championship Game, Surtain had the difficult challenge of slowing down Chris Olave from Ohio State. QB Justin Fields was held to 194 yards in the air while Olave had 8 receptions for 69 yards and 0 scores. Surtain had 3 total tackles, one pass defended and a tackle for loss. Patrick Surtain’s excellent career has him marked as the top defensive back prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Current Draft Projection

Strengths

Prototypical Size & Frame: Physically, Patrick Surtain is the complete package. He’s got the frame, size and speed you want in a #1 cornerback. He won’t be the fastest guy on the field the second he puts on that NFL jersey, but this is a guy who will thrive playing press-man corner at the next level.

He’s got fluid hips, solid quickness and handwork that allows him to bully smaller receivers at the line of scrimmage and remain sticky out of their routes. Most importantly, Surtain’s instincts and football intelligence are off the charts. He knows how to be physical with receivers without drawing unnecessary flags.

According to Pro Football Focus, Surtain played the most defensive snaps without a penalty committed this season (916) while allowing 6 penalties the season prior.

A Technical Marvel: What’s most impressive about Patrick Surtain is his ability to understand route combinations and drive at the ball. He rarely misses a step and quick to react when the ball is in the air.

He’s an improving tackler who has only missed 11 tackles during his 3 years at Alabama. Being a sound tackler is the main separator between Patrick Surtain and other elite cornerback prospect Caleb Farley.

This is a guy who rarely gets thrown at. Surtain was targeted only one time per every 10 coverage snaps and allowed a reception every 25 coverage snaps (#1 in the country).

Man coverage will likely be his biggest strength in the NFL.

Seasoned & Ready to Rock: As explained earlier, Patrick Surtain was thrown into the fire during his true freshman season at Alabama. Over the course of the last 3 years, Patrick Surtain has essentially seen it all. This is about as pro-ready as it gets for a cornerback prospect. Surtain has a knack for keeping everything in front of him and plays extremely well disciplined. The team that’s drafting him knows they getting a 3-year starter from Alabama who will be a plug and play cornerback the moment he puts on an NFL jersey.

Areas to Improve Upon

Not Overly Quick or Versatile: Patrick Surtain has some change-of-direction issues therefore playing him against smallish wide receivers at the next level might prove to be challenging. In a world where being versatile as a defensive back is critical, Surtain projects best on the outside in the NFL. This is likely a prospect who plays faster on the field rather than his recorded time on the 40-yard dash. Surtain doesn’t look great playing off coverage and he may be scheme dependent. He would certainly look better playing in press rather than zone coverage at the next level.

Lack of Deep Speed:While Surtain has Farley beat at tackling, Farley separates himself with pure speed. Similar to what was mentioned above, Patrick Surtain doesn’t possess elite speed which may allow burner receivers to take advantage of him. Surtain was rarely thrown at during his time at Alabama. Even in the playoff games, defensive coaches openly admitted that they game planned away from Surtain’s side of the field. I would expect NFL QBs to test Surtain early and often down the field. Surtain is susceptible to getting beat over the top, which we saw twice happen vs Florida last season.

Best Fits

Patrick Surtain II is by far the best press-man cornerback in the draft. He’s got skills that will allow him to thrive on the outside and in a Cover-3 scheme in the NFL. From watching tape, it appears that Surtain compares best to Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey at the next level. Lets take a look at the top 3 fits for Patrick Surtain in the NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles need an outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay. Poor cornerback play was a huge issue for the Eagles in 2020 and they are in major need for an upgrade. The Eagles have used 36 different defensive backs during the last 77 games since 2016. The secondary routinely gave up the highest average opponent QB rating while also seeing among the lowest passing attempts in the NFL last season. With Jonathan Gannon in play as DC, the Eagles are expected to run Cover-2 zone coverage. Patrick Surtain is the ideal trade back scenario for the Eagles given Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith are off the board at #6.

Carolina Panthers

Patrick Surtain in the same defensive backfield as Jeremy Chinn is a secondary that would be extremely exciting to watch for the foreseeable future.  The Panthers’ passing defense ranked in the middle of the NFL last year. However, their true strength came from defending the slot as they were second in the NFL in stops in the slot (26). Further, the Panthers allowed a QB rating of 98.4 in 2020, which is among the bottom of the NFL. Outside corner Donte Jackson showed improvement but adding a blue chipper like Patrick Surtain makes a ton of sense for Matt Rhule’s Panthers.

Dallas Cowboys

I don’t think it’s breaking news to say that the Cowboys defense was atrocious last season. The Cowboys gave up the 3rd most passing touchdowns in the league (34), and like the Eagles, need a guy opposite Trevon Diggs. Dan Quinn’s defenses rely heavily on press man coverage, therefore on paper Patrick Surtain looks like an ideal fit. Do the Cowboys go for a guy with a higher ceiling in Farley but didn’t play in 2020? That is the topic of conversation in Dallas right now. 

Click below for part one of our Philadelphia Eagles Draft Preview