It is no secret the Falcons need help on the boundary opposite of A.J. Terrell. The Falcons rolled out Darqueze Dennard, Kendall Sheffield, and Isaiah Oliver across from Terrell at some point throughout the season, and the results varied. Oliver was horrendous, but he did show some worth in the slot. Sheffield is still developing, but he played satisfactorily in 2019. His 2020 was… not good. Dennard was the best out of the group, and I wouldn’t be against bringing him back on a one-year deal, but he isn’t a long-term answer to pair with Terrell like Patrick Surtain is.
Surtain’s combination of length, patience, and hand usage have him highly regarded as the best corner in this draft class. He thrives in press-man coverage, where he scours over any underneath routes. He always seems to play slow, in a good way. No matter how fast the receiver is that he is shadowing, Surtain always looks relaxed in his technique — it’s awesome to watch. But the patience is matched with reactionary quickness.
He is a student of the game, and his mental is as impressive as his physical attributes. Surtain knows exactly when to react and when not to overreact, and he can also be handsy — which isn’t bad — but knows how much he can get away with and what he can’t. He is a three-year starter at Alabama and has experience in the slot and boundary, though he is more valuable as a boundary corner.
Patrick Surtain II is a fun study…
Long, physical, quick footed. Never panics with ball in the air. Looks in good position to defend both the fade and backshoulder on this snap
Lots of experience inside at nickel too pic.twitter.com/sirXUqk8jE
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 16, 2020
The biggest question surrounding Patrick Surtain is that he lacks the top-end speed to cover deep routes. Not many teams threatened the Alabama defense deep because of the respect for their pass-rush and press-man abilities. The NFL will be different, but I really don’t expect this to be a huge problem. Surtain will probably come out and run a 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day and immediately shut down the single notion he isn’t the #1 corner in this class. He’s a very willing tackler even if he isn’t the most reliable — which isn’t a problem at all.
“I’m really concerned about Patrick Surtain II’s long speed…” pic.twitter.com/2LZm0Drbel
— Cory (@realcorykinnan) January 21, 2021
Surtain thrives in press-man coverage, but I really think he and A.J. Terrell could play anything that Dean Pees asked them to. He is a boundary corner who thrives when playing on the short side of the field. His incredible size and length disrupt quick throw windows. He forces fumbles and incompletions at a high rate, and in a system like Pees’ defense, he will have plenty of opportunities to make plays on the ball.
It is clear the Isaiah Oliver isn’t the answer; he likely won’t receive a second contract. Kendall Sheffield is still developing, and he could possibly turn into a quality starter, but the Falcons don’t have the luxury to wait. Drafting Surtain will promote healthy competition in the cornerback room, which is what great teams have at every position.
Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire