Eagles 2021 Draft Spotlight: CB Patrick Surtain II
You may not have heard his name mentioned often during the 2020 National Championship Game, but for good reason. Opposing offenses have avoided throwing in Patrick Surtain’s direction since his high school days. As a consensus five-star recruit, Surtain immediately proved his talent at Alabama. He departs the program with a national title, SEC Defensive Player of the Year award, and is now projected as a top prospect in the NFL Draft.
His father, Patrick Surtain Sr, is an 11-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, playing seven seasons with the Dolphins and four with the Chiefs. He eventually coached his son who followed in his father’s footsteps to play cornerback at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida where they won back-to-back state championships.
Surtain hit the ground running in Tuscaloosa and his prowess at defensive back was undeniable. Even as a true freshman, it was clear that the skilled corner could run with the best in the SEC. In his first game against Louisville, Surtain held opposing receivers to 2 catches on 4 targets for 23 yards and almost had his first collegiate interception if not for a brutal offensive pass interference. The gifted underclassman carved out a role as Alabama’s left cornerback, starting in 12 of 15 games of his freshman season.
That year the Crimson Tide cruised to an SEC Championship and faced off with Heisman winner Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Semi-Finals. Up until that game, Patrick Surtain had not allowed a single touchdown or reception over 24 yards in 41 pass attempts thrown his way.
However, the standout corner finally looked like a freshman in the 2018 Orange Bowl as the Sooners went after him 11 times to the tune of 9 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. CeeDee Lamb did most of the damage in Surtain’s baptism by fire game, totaling 88 yards on 6 receptions and the lone touchdown reception surrendered by Surtain in 2018. He would end up conceding only three more touchdown receptions for the rest of his career at Alabama and never let up more than 60 receiving yards in a game.
After his freshman season, quarterbacks avoided throwing to their right side where Surtain lurked. In his 26 consecutive starts following the 2018 National Championship, Patrick was thrown at just 99 total times in 1,026 coverage snaps. But even when teams dared to throw in his direction, Surtain remained locked down in coverage. In 2019 and 2020 combined, the Alabama cornerback had 14 pass breakups and 3 interceptions and gave up a pedestrian 11.39 yards per reception. Quarterbacks’ passer ratings would plummet to a measly 66.94 when they chose to target Surtain in coverage.
But maybe the most spectacular stat of Patrick Surtain’s unbelievable 2020 campaign was that he didn’t commit a single penalty all season long. Given his physical, press man-to-man style of coverage, no defensive holdings or DPIs surrendered in 13 straight games may be the most impressive feat of Surtain’s illustrious college career.
The criticisms about Surtain’s game that you will hear during the draft process would be concerns about tackling and his speed to make up ground when he is unsuccessful in jamming the opposing receiver. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound cornerback relies on his physicality at the line of scrimmage to bump receivers off their initial route and uses the 5 yards of contact to his advantage. His 40-yard dash time will be highly anticipated for scouts, but starting for three years as an outside cornerback in the SEC requires some serious speed.
When asked about the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Saban credits Surtain’s work ethic and dedication,
“He leads by example. He always practices the way you’re supposed to practice, takes coaching the way you’re supposed to take coaching. I think he respects the critical eye. He wants to be a good player. He wants you to tell him how he could do things better. He’s very committed to being a good player.”(via 247sports.com)
That’s very high praise coming from one of the most demanding college football coaches in today’s game. Surtain’s leadership style truly reflects the way he plays: he lets his work on the field do all of the talking for him. “I think he’s not really a vocal guy but in a quiet way, impacts everybody in a very, very positive way because of the example that he sets.” Saban went on to say.
“He is somebody that I wish every guy on our team would try to emulate in terms of the character that he has as a person and the competitive character he demonstrates every day in preparing for a game, as well as how he plays in a game.”
SEC caliber talent that played in every collegiate game he dressed for? Check. Taught to play cornerback by an All-Pro talent in the NFL? Check. Regarded as a model athlete in terms of character, competitiveness, and work ethic by a legendary college coach? Check. It’s these kinds of prospects that the Eagles need to invest in if they plan on rebuilding back into a Super Bowl-caliber team.