Every year during the NFL Draft, teams talk about how they “can’t believe” certain players were on their board or how they didn’t think certain players would fall to their pick, even though they were or they did. For the Denver Broncos, rare circumstances in the 2021 NFL Draft led to the team getting arguably the best defensive player in the entire class at pick number 9 overall.
That player is, of course, former Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
The selection of Surtain caught pretty much everyone in Denver Broncos Country by surprise. Almost every signal the team was sending over the last couple of weeks was quarterback, quarterback, maybe trade down for a linebacker, quarterback, quarterback, and then quarterback.
General manager George Paton said at his pre-draft press conference, and I quote:
“We don’t need to take a cornerback now.”
There was understandable confusion after a barrage of rumors floating around Twitter that the Denver Broncos were all but assured of getting Aaron Rodgers followed by both Justin Fields and Mac Jones sitting on the board at pick 9 overall.
The Denver Broncos obviously have plans for Surtain in their defense this season, not just in 2021 when Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are free agents.
Paton stated after the Denver Broncos selected Surtain that they got the top-rated defensive player on their board, and a player who was just outside of their top five overall players.
Again, this year’s draft was rare in terms of the fact that the top three picks were guaranteed to be quarterbacks, and the top non-quarterbacks in this class were wide receivers, Penei Sewell, or Kyle Pitts.
Patrick Surtain has been a projected top-10 selection for a really long time, and he’s become borderline boring for his consistency out there for the Crimson Tide.
There is no doubt about the fact that Surtain is as “safe” as you can get with your first pick as a general manager in the NFL. There is no doubt that this kid is going to be a good pro and the Broncos got themselves a good one.
From now on, however, Surtain’s career will be compared side-by-side with Justin Fields, who went two picks later to the Chicago Bears. No one is wishing Fields poorly in Chicago, but it’s fascinating that the Denver Broncos prioritized Surtain over him given a lack of certainty for the future at quarterback.
More on that later.
For now, the Broncos have come away with the best defensive player on their board. That’s not hyperbole or fluff-pumping by George Paton, either. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Surtain as his highest-rated defensive player in this draft class, and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had Surtain as the fifth overall player in the class as well as the top defender.
The Denver Broncos stayed at nine overall and selected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, making Crimson Tide players in consecutive years.
As draft weekend progresses, we’ll continue to look more into exactly why so many feel like Surtain was the top defensive player in this class.