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2021 NFL draft: Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II is the surest thing on defense

Eric Edholm
·6 min read
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Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

10. Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II

6-foot-2, 208 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.13 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Long, athletically blessed press corner with strong technique and pedigree

Games watched: Tennessee (2020), Florida (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Auburn (2020)

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit (No. 8 nationally), Surtain didn’t follow his NFL father’s footsteps at Florida State, instead choosing the Crimson Tide. He stepped in as an immediate contributor in 2018, starting 12 of 15 games and making 37 tackles (1.5 for losses), one interception and eight pass breakups, earning SEC All-Freshman Team honors. In 2019, Surtain started all 13 games and made 42 tackles (one for a loss), two interceptions, 10 pass breakups and three forced fumbles. 

In 2020, he made 38 tackles (3.5 for losses), one interception (which he ran back 25 yards for a score) and 13 pass breakups in 13 starts for the national champs, earning first-team AP All-America and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. After the season, he declared early for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Textbook frame and athleticism — can’t draw them up any better. Outstanding length — 32 1/2-inch arms and 87 1/2-inch wingspan, with massive hands (10 inches). Great weight distribution and terrific mass.

Surpassed all hopes at his pro day. Answered questions about his speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash), tremendous numbers in the vertical (39 inches) and broad jumps (131 inches), plus 18 bench-press reps. Great positional work as well.

Natural cover skills, especially in man coverage. Extensive experience in press, press-bail and off-man. Played the left side mostly but also has been used on the right, in the slot, as an overhang defender and as a blitzer. Do-it-all corner.

Physical in press but also patient — takes a varied, sophisticated approach at the line. Smooth lower half in his mirror technique. Terrific footwork and balance, especially in his transitions. Great plant-and-drive ability once receivers declare their routes. Technique is sound across the board.

Closes fast and hard on short stuff in space — great tackler who rarely whiffs. Not a sledgehammer in run support, but a willing, active participant with some thump. Looks to dislodge the football — four career forced fumbles. Physical in coverage without going overboard. Cut way back on the grabbiness — went from six flags in 840 snaps in 2019 (including four PI calls) to zero flags in 916 snaps in 2020.

Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II might be the cleanest prospect on defense in the 2021 NFL draft class. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II might be the cleanest prospect on defense in the 2021 NFL draft class. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Great at the catch point. Times his jumps well and has the explosive athleticism to compete with big-framed wideouts on 50-50 balls. Terrific ball production — career 31 pass breakups, four INTs — and showed some playmaking ability after the pick (69 return yards, one TD).

Outstanding experience — finished his career with 38 straight starts. Competed against the best of the best week in and week out (especially in practice vs. Bama receivers). Well-coached and drilled — great route-recognition skills. Born to play corner. Son of three-time Pro Bowl corner, who also coached him in high school.

Has an alpha aura and great confidence. Detail-oriented. Turned 21 in April and has room to get even better.

Downside: Vertical speed can tax him. Struggled some with big receivers who can get deep — Tennessee’s Josh Palmer and Florida’s Trevon Grimes both got on top of him. Makeup speed might be only average, even for his size.

Looks less comfortable in off-man coverage — not quite as lithe in his movement and reactions. Also not quite as impactful when Bama went zone.

Got away with some downfield contact in 2020 — NFL refs might not be as forgiving. Had a few matchups with bigger receivers who could match and neutralize his physicality. Can do a better job when it comes to fighting off blocks and dragging down ball carriers quicker. Zero forced fumbles last season.

Opted not to run the 3-cone drill or shuttle drills at pro day. Some mild concerns about his hip tightness, suddenness and twitch still linger. Needs to gather himself a bit during transitions. Can still lose late in man-coverage assignments vs. elite route runners and change-of-direction threats.

Best-suited destination: Perhaps the cleanest defensive evaluation in this entire class, Surtain is among the surest things you can find in 2021. We like him as a strong fit in a man-heavy system, and he projects as the kind of corner who can handle tough assignments early and not lose his confidence.

All signs point to Surtain being a Day 1 starter with a very high floor as well as tangible upside. Alabama associate defensive coordinator Charles Kelly compared Surtain to Jalen Ramsey, whom Kelly coached in college.

Did you know: Surtain was coached by his father at American Heritage High in Plantation, Florida, along with former NFL DB Mike Rumph. And it was a who’s who of future NFL prospects on the squad. In addition to Georgia DB Tyson Campbell, a possible top-50 pick, the Patriots featured Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz, Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert, Michigan TE Nick Eubanks, Florida CB Marco Wilson and Florida DT Tedarrell Slaton, among others.

Player comp: Byron Jones

Expected draft range: Top-15 pick

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