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Former NFL Scout believes Alabama CB Patrick Surtain Jr. plays the game too safe | Not a risk taker, and has a high bust rate

Patrick Surtain Alabama NFL Draft Scouting Report
Is Patrick Surtain Jr. the best cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft? Every NFL Draftnik is technically in agreeance he is a top 2 or top 3 corner, but one former NFL scout says he is not a risk taker, and that scares him.

Scouting Report: CB Patrick Surtain Jr. 6’2” 203 (Alabama)

Unofficial 40-time: 4.42 (247sports.com)

Film Exposure: (2020) Michigan, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Auburn and Notre Dame.  

Thin, lanky looking corner with long arms who has excellent athletic ability, long range speed and burst, but by nature he plays too cautiously and he is too reactive. Surtain is a big name and big rep player who’s dad was a big time NFL corner. Surtain played on the National Championship team this past season with Alabama. He is not a pure lock down corner because he gives up too many receptions short to intermediate. More of a deep shutdown corner. Statistics support this. According to pff.com in three years he allowed 2 catches deep of 20+ (14 targets). On passes of 10-19 yards he allowed 7 receptions (16 targets). On passes of 0-9 he allowed 10 receptions (15 targets). Teams tend to shy away from throwing in his direction, but when they went straight at him they proved he is very human – especially in the short to intermediate ranges. Surtain is a smart guy who looks like he understands the position. He has all the physical tools and techniques. No question he was probably taught the art of playing corner from his dad. He is just not aggressive enough by nature. He is aggressive at times in support, but not nearly as aggressive in coverage.

Not a gambler. Not a risk-taker. Not a play-maker. He is not a Sports Center highlight reel of player. Surtain plays like he is afraid to take chances in coverage in fear he will give up the big play. Receivers take advantage of this. Surtain has the pure ability athletic ability and speed not to give up a cushion, but he tends to concede cushions on routes based on fear. Conservative in coverage. Likes to keep things in front of him. 

Comes up in coverage and gives a very aggressive man press look pre-snap. According to pff.com, he played in 277 snaps in press man the past two seasons, which was more than anyone else. While he can flip his hips, turn, run and keep things tight – instead tends to open hips up and concede some generous cushions in the short to intermediate ranges. The offenses who went right at him and tested him beat him for some catches – especially in the short to intermediate range. Surtain’s abilities do force quarterbacks to fit it into tighter windows, but the windows are there, especially inside. Surtain seems okay with giving up receptions as long as he does not give up the big play. Tends to secure the tackle after catches. Surtain carries shallow crossing routes well, but he is susceptible to slant routes and anything that snaps off inside. He opens up too much and allows too much separation in those situations. 

Patrick Surtain Jr. did an excellent job carrying routes deep down the sideline on straight-line routes. He did very well carrying while maintaining inside leverage and using the sideline as his friend. Very tough to beat in these situations. Good long-range straight line playing speed. Stays tight. He did show versus Kentucky that he can be beat on a deep post. He also showed he can play the post tightly. Inconsistent on film versus deep post. 

Against the run and in support he shows high-level physicality to get involved, especially when he has to. Also showed he has the pure speed to chase things down from behind, but at other times he could be seen on film going half speed and not having interest in chasing down big plays. Inconsistent effort in those situations. Surtain is absolutely capable of coming up and providing strong physical support on running plays, but sometimes he backs down and does not look as interested. Sometimes he is content letting others make the stop and getting away from it. Inconsistent effort and desire in support. 

Surtain does have the ability to be a solid blitzing corner when his number is called. He can get there in a hurry and close. Did not have any sacks in the games I viewed, but did an adequate job making his presence felt. Surtain did not have any sacks during his college career (espn.com) either. He is done if he is blocked in these situations. 

I was expecting more from Surtain than what I saw on film. He projects to be a solid #1 corner, but not great. He has the pure and raw ability to be great, but lacks the nature and swag to be great. Seems a little soft and lacks hunger. Too conservative and does not believe in himself enough. Good chance he will struggle in the NFL with teams who attack him because NFL quarterbacks are going to be able to fit it into the windows he gives up short to intermediate. They will take what he is willing to give all day. Surtain has some glaring chinks in his armor which are exploited. I was not that impressed. I was disappointed. Surtain has all the ability in the world. I want to make that really clear. Absolutely has all the tools and pure ability to be great, but he just does not have the nature, disposition or attitude it takes. Surtain is missing something. He is missing that play-making ability. Surtain is a player who had four interceptions (and 25 passes defensed) in three seasons at Alabama. The low interception number substantiates what I saw on film. Surtain is awesome deep for the most part, just the short to intermediate stuff is a real concern to me. I think NFL teams are going to kill him in those route levels and beat what confidence he has right out of him over time. His fear of getting beat will be his downfall in the NFL.

Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board:

Patrick Surtain Jr. would not be on my draft board. I need aggressive risk-takers and play-makers at corner. He is a play it safe corner. I will give him a league grade of first round (15-32). 

Probability of being a bust: 60%

If I were a GM, this is the question I need to be answered in my mind about Patrick Surtain Jr., Where does his play-it-safe cautious approach come from? 

My Top 3 concerns about Surtain:

  1. The cushion he concedes on short to intermediate route levels. 
  2. Reluctance about half the time to provide support. 
  3. Lack of aggressiveness in coverage a lot of the time. 

How NFL offenses will beat him: Attack him in short to intermediate route levels. Go right at him early and often until he has an answer. Seems susceptible to slants and deep come backs because he opens up and gives up too much of a cushion. Patiently, just keep going at him. 

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK. 

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