In Ben Linsey’s latest mock draft for PFF, the Falcons trade down with the Broncos — who draft their next franchise quarterback in Trey Lance — and take the first defensive player off the board, Patrick Surtain II, with the ninth overall pick.
2021 NFL Mock Draft (@PFF_Linsey):
4. Broncos (via ATL): Trey Lance
6. Dolphins: Kyle Pitts
19. Washington: Rashod Bateman
32. Bucs: Rondale Moore
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 5, 2021
Terry Fontenot is in a peculiar position for April’s draft. He can either take the franchise’s heir apparent to Matt Ryan, select one of the elite non-quarterback prospects — Kyle Pitts Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell — or trade down for a king’s ransom. There is a case to be made for each of the three paths, which Arthur Smith will surely have a say in.
Linsey’s reasoning, “It’s certainly not a bad option, but Atlanta has more than one hole on this roster. The defensive depth chart, in particular, isn’t all that pretty… That’s why I believe it makes the most sense for the Falcons to trade back with one of the several teams who will be looking to move up to secure one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class,” isn’t completely flawed. Still, I don’t think the defensive holes is why the Falcons brass will trade down. Linsey fails to specify the return for a trade down from the fourth pick to the ninth pick.
The Falcons aren’t going to give up the opportunity to select the franchise’s next quarterback for pennies; there will be a lofty asking price for any team that wants to trade up to the Falcons’ fourth pick. There is some validity to Linsey’s reasoning about the defensive depth chart looking thin at certain positions, defensive back being one.
Atlanta rolled out a combination of Isaiah Oliver, Darqueze Dennard, and Kendall Sheffield opposite the boundary of AJ Terrell with mixed results. Dennard was the best out of the group but couldn’t consistently stay on the field, hampered by injuries. Oliver is incredibly frustrating as he has shown almost no growth as a boundary corner but did show surprisingly well in the slot. Sheffield’s progression is as plateaued as Oliver’s, playing satisfactorily in 2019 but awful in 2020.
The Falcons signing many veterans — Fabian Moreau — to one-year deals allows them to be flexible come draft time. The former Alabama corner will likely be on the board come the ninth pick, but Fontenot won’t be pressured into anything because he already patched most of the holes.
Taking Surtain at nine would satisfy a need while providing proper value for someone of his caliber. He’s still one of, if not the best defensive prospect in this draft, but as I talked about in another article, this crop of defensive players doesn’t offer any real value at four.
Surtain is the exact type of football player Fontenot and Smith want: smart, tough, and coachable. His intangibles are as impressive as his physical ones, which tested off the charts at his Alabama pro day — measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, broad jumped 10 feet-11 inches, vertical jumped 39 inches, and totaled 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
The biggest question mark surrounding Surtain was his lack of top-end speed, but he quickly put that to bed after running a 4.42 forty. The son of a three-time Pro Bowl defensive back, Surtain II has the ideal combination of length, patience, and hand usage touting him as the top corner in this class. Playing a lot of press-man coverage allows him to scour over underneath routes, which bodes well in Dean Pees’ defense.
The most fascinating characteristic has to be how slow he plays, which can likely be attributed to being groomed by his father. No matter the speed of the opposing receiver, Surtain always looks relaxed and calm in his technique. His mental fortitude is impregnable, and he knows the game’s nuances like the back of his hand. Surtain is aware of what he can and can’t get away with and will push the limits with his hand-fighting.
Surtain at nine is an easy pill to swallow, but the trade details were left out of the PFF article, which gives the topic no gravity. The 49ers paid a premium for Miami’s third overall pick. Expect nothing less for the fourth overall pick; in fact, I would expect a bidding war to take place as a handful of quarterback-needy teams scramble to find their savior.