2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Patrick Surtain

March 5, 2021 7:00 AM EST

Patrick Surtain Scouting Report picture

School: Alabama

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 202

Eligibility: JR

Uniform: #2

Position: CB

Evaluated by: Austin Smith
March 5, 2021

Prospect Overview

2018: 37 tackles, 1 int, 7 PD, 1 FF
2019: 42 tackles, 2 int, 8 PD, 1 FR, 3 FF
2020: 37 tackles, 1 int, 9 PD

Coming out of Florida, Surtain had much more going for him than just his father's name. The five-star recruit helped lead his high school team to back-to-back State Championships in his final two seasons and was the consensus top cornerback in the nation in the 2018 class. Upon arriving in Tuscaloosa, Surtain wasted no time having an impact as he played a key role in each of his first three games before starting the following week. He would go on to earn Freshman All-American honors and even garnered some midseason All-American attention as well.

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As a sophomore, Surtain returned to help form one of the more talented secondaries in the country with a pair of future second-round selections in Xavier McKinney and Trevon Diggs. He went on to have his best collegiate season, earning career-highs in tackles, interceptions, fumbles, forced and fumble recoveries. That pegged Surtain as one of the top returning defenders in college football as a junior, where he continued to prove his value on the perimeter, collecting the fourth pick of his career and knocking down a personal-best nine passes. This garnered him unanimous All-American honors, and Surtain was also named a finalist for the Bednarik, Lott, Nagurski, and Thorpe Awards.

He was also named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, cementing his place as one of Nick Saban's more accomplished defensive backs during his time at Alabama. Surtain was also the first defensive back to earn the award since Morris Claiborne in 2011. Not only did the son of the former All-Pro corner live up to the billing while playing for the Crimson Tide, but he's also put himself in position to be one of the top defensive backs drafted in the 2021 class.


There is no questioning that he's the son of a former All-Pro defensive back when scouting him. Surtain is technically sound in every aspect of playing the position. His handwork is very good at the line of scrimmage, taking advantage of his terrific arm length and size by jarring players early in the route. However, Surtain doesn't force the issue. He's patient and understands that a shove three or four yards down the field can be just as effective as one off the line. Surtain also displays terrific balance throughout the early process of the route thanks to a sturdy frame and active feet that rarely take a false step.

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Those same qualities show up in off-coverage as well. He stays low in his pedal with his weight underneath him, making Surtain prepared for any break. His feet are, once again, active and precise, getting him headed in the right direction quickly. Surtain's balance also shows up when it's time to flip his hips. While I don't think the former All-American will blow us away with his athleticism, he makes the most of his talents thanks to all of these qualities, which help him transition smoothly in any change-of-direction circumstance. Surtain's balance helps him stay glued to the receiver when he has turned his focus to the ball, allowing him to stay in ideal position until the ball arrives.

Outside of the outstanding technique, Surtain also displays savvy moves that show he's been well-coached. Players releasing to the sideline often get squeezed to the boundary, and overall, Surtain understands angles very well. We also see this when he breaks on routes, and Surtain is one of the top defensive backs in the class at sniffing out routes. His awareness for route-combinations is terrific in zone coverage, and there are instances where he can bait quarterbacks into throws. In man, he does an excellent job of recognizing when a receiver's pace or pad level changes to predict breaks. As a run defender, he also has a keen understanding of angles and where he has help, and we often see him position himself properly to either make the tackle or force it back inside.

It's also hard to overlook Surtain's size at the position. I fully expect him to measure around his listed height and weight at six feet, two inches, and 203 pounds. Surtain's arm-length will also be a plus, and his strong frame will make him one of the more physically-ready corners to make the jump to the NFL. Speaking of long arms, Surtain also has incredible ball skills, making his size that much more valuable. He has no problem extending his hands to passes and hauling them in, and his strength helps him keep his position against bigger pass-catchers. Surtain times his jumps well and displays tremendous focus while tracking the ball.

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Areas for Improvement

I'm not sure if this is something we will ever see him improve, but he's just not going to be the elite athlete that most teams want in an early first-round pick. His technical abilities make the most of his athleticism, but it's still an issue. As I stated, Surtain transitions well in and out of his breaks with good balance and footwork, but he just doesn't accelerate at the same rate as some of the other top corners in this class. He also doesn't have the recovery speed to survive missing at the line of scrimmage, and overall, I'll be shocked if we see him run under a 4.5. Also, the slot won't be an option for him unless he's matching up with tight ends. Quicker slot receivers will get good separation from him unless he gets a good jam on them. Overall, Surtain is just not that twitchy.

The biggest flaw I saw from Surtain that can be improved upon is his tendency to get grabby late in the route. We saw him get flagged a lot more than some evaluators will be comfortable with in an early first-round option, which could see him slide a bit. Most college corners have to adjust to the fact that contact before the pass is a penalty in the NFL, whereas players are permitted to make contact up until the ball is thrown in college. Still, Surtain has excellent size, and if he's close enough to grab, he's close enough to make a play on the ball. I would just like to see him trust that incredible length more and keep his hands off the receiver.

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Draft Stock

I have to admit, this is a tough call because Surtain is the most polished defensive back in this class, but his athleticism is not in that same conversation. Some schemes can mask that issue, and I think teams that run them will have him as one of the top defenders on their board. However, I'd have a tough time drafting him in the top ten. There's been one cornerback in the last ten years drafted in the top-ten selections that didn't run a sub-4.5 forty-yard dash (Morris Claiborne ran a 4.50), and even if Surtain does clear the mark, his play speed tells a different story. His agility times will be a very similar case, and it's just not feasible to spend a pick that high on a good-not-great athlete when it's the most dependent position on being elite or close to it in that area.

Still, I don't see him getting out of the first round and wouldn't be shocked if he went somewhere in the middle of the round. Of my top three corners (Caleb Farley, Jaycee Horn, Surtain), there will be teams that value each over the other two. I just believe more teams will value Farley over the others while he and Horn are neck and neck behind him. If there is another area that could work in Surtain's favor, it’s the work he's put in to be as good as he is, as well as his understanding of what it takes to be a professional because of his father. Also, unlike most guys at the position, he doesn't let his emotions get the best of him, taking a mature approach to the playing field.

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Player Comparison

Jimmy Smith tested better coming out of Colorado than I believe Surtain will, but that didn't really show up on the field at the NFL level. Still, Smith was tall, long, and physical, and each of those has translated during his time in Baltimore. He’s been terrific matching up with bigger pass-catchers in the NFL and has also had a lot of success because of his ability to re-route players early in the play.

Smith has also knocked down or intercepted 85 passes in 118 games, and I think that is the kind of player Surtain can be. He may also be more polished than was Smith entering the league, giving me optimism that he can surpass the career the former-Buff has had to this point. Still, it’s hard to nit-pick a guy that has played ten years in the league at cornerback.

Games Evaluated

  • at South Carolina (9-14-19)
  • vs. Ole Miss (9-28-19)
  • vs. Tennessee (10-19-19)
  • vs. LSU (11-9-19)
  • vs. Michigan (1-1-20)
  • vs. Georgia (10-17-20)

Notes from Film

  • Plays with very good balance that I credit to his pad level and impeccable footwork. You can certainly tell his father has been able to teach him some of the finer points to playing the position and these are two. He doesn't take many false steps, and he stays in a ready position with his butt low and his feet under him. This trait not only shows up at the break point in the receiver's route when he has to change direction, but also in press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
  • Excellent awareness on the field. He not only shows good route recognition, often reacting quickly at the top of the route. However, his awareness shows up most when in zone coverage. He understands route combinations well, and I think it's when he is most likely to gets hands on a ball because he can even bait the quarterback when he spots a route combo quickly. Good example of that against Tennessee on a smash route combination. He initially committed to the hitch knowing the quarterback would turn his attention to the corner. He flipped his hips and undercut the route perfectly. Had it been an accurate throw, he would have picked it with ease.
  • Not going to blow us away with his testing. Doesn't possess the makeup speed or short-area quickness to wow, but it's good enough in both areas to still be considered a top cornerback candidate in the 2021 class. His awareness and instincts also make up in both of these areas, as do his long arms.
  • Terrific ball skills. He snatches the ball comfortably away from his frame, and he tracks the ball well when he is able to turn his head and locate the ball. We do see him flash the ability to turn his head in a timely fashion, and when he does, he locks his eyes onto the ball quickly. He can elevate well, and judges the situation well when it comes to attacking it with two hands to try and pick it or just one to knock it away.
  • Was the target of some flags as a sophomore, and it's always because he gets grabby as opposed to trusting his positioning. I get that it's easier to trust turning your head to locate the football when you can still feel where the receiver is but he has to trust his feet and positioning more often because the pass interference rules only get stricter in the NFL. Did a better job in the bowl game against Michigan.
  • Size and length are very good for the position, and he also appears to possess good strength. It shows up at the line of scrimmage in press technique with receivers having to work to get around him in their release. He is also a very good tackler for the position. He could be a little more physical with his jam attempts, but I think it has more to do with his hand placement. If he can improve in that area, I think it will help mask his less-than-ideal athleticism even more.
  • I like how he leans into receivers to squeeze them to the sideline on go routes. His size shows up there and it's a savvy move that makes it tough to target the receiver.
  • His instincts and physical nature also show up when he has to step up in the run game. He does a good job of getting downhill while also keeping his outside containment responsibilities. He also spots running lanes and fills them when on a non-receiver side and outside containment is not his responsibility. Makes me think he could play safety if the makeup speed becomes an issue in the NFL.
  • While there are some physical limitations with his speed and quick-twitch ability, he does do a very good job of flipping his hips. It’s a very smooth transition and his balance and footwork help him in this regard. I just wish he got going quicker after doing so.

Scouting Video Courtesy of JustBombsProductions

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