Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The son of former defensive back, Patrick Surtain, the junior has started in 37 games for the Crimson Tide. In that time, he has amassed 116 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 24 passes defended.
The junior has lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 cornerback from his high school recruiting class consistently shadowing the best wide receiver on the opposing team even when Trevon Diggs was on the team.
For the 2020 season, Surtain was the highest-graded cornerback in the country after allowing only one completion of over 20 yards all season and with a forced incompletion percentage of 27.3 percent which put him at third amongst SEC cornerbacks.
The production proves Surtain has been a consistent defender in college, but what has propelled him to the top of the upcoming NFL draft class?
Competitive Toughness/Mental Processing
These two attributes don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand but in regards to Surtain, there isn’t much to say regarding both traits. Playing for Nick Saban requires a good amount of discipline, aggression, and intelligence; it is no secret his defensive backs tend to have success at the professional level and these are big reasons why.
He displays good competitive toughness to compete in every play and aggression that allows him to fight blocks in run support and be effective when blitzing the QB. In coverage, he displays good aggression to knock the ball out of the receiver’s hands and shows a desire to hit hard.
The narrative around Surtain is that he is really physical; it’s possible that those spreading the narrative are actually overreacting to how physical he plays. Is he willing to tackle and do the dirty work? Yes. Is he what people may describe as a “heat-seeking missile”? No.
However, he’s physical when he needs to be because he is an intelligent player. Why play hard when you can play smart?
He displays good mental processing when covering the deep thirds of the field reading and reacting to QB eyes and possessing the awareness to effectively communicate assignments with other defensive backs in order to match receivers through their routes. Even in man coverage, he displays good mental processing to read and react to the receiver’s hips to mirror WR and TEs throughout route stem, break point, and catch point.
Similar to Farley, Surtain is quite good in man coverage. Both are big players relative to their position and possess the necessary agility, change of direction, and foot speed to mirror receivers in man coverage, specifically in press coverage.
In press coverage, he is consistent at mirroring the receiver off the line of scrimmage displaying good footwork and use of hands to maintain leverage against the wide receiver and force him toward the boundary. Through the route stem, he displays the change of direction and agility to mirror receivers through their cuts not losing leverage or allowing separation.
Surtain can struggle in man coverage because his explosiveness and arm length prevent him from playing the receiver on time and knocking the ball out. A small issue, but a notable one. The team that drafts Surtain shouldn’t be using him to play off coverage, but it is necessary from time to time.
He leverages the alley well. He initiates contact first almost every time. He’s efficient at detaching from blocks. He is solid at tackling. Not much else to it really?