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Broncos Rookie Film Review: CB Patrick Surtain II Shines in Year 1

The Broncos absolutely killed the 2021 NFL draft. How did the main star of the group fair in Year 1?

The Denver Broncos did not have the season they anticipated in 2021 as they missed the playoffs with a measly 7-10 record. While there are plenty of negatives in this poor output, the rookie class absolutely stood out in Year 1.

The star of that class was first-round cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Surtain was selected with the No. 9 overall pick and quickly churned out a Pro Bowl-caliber season, finishing the year with eight pass breakups and four interceptions in his NFL debut.

In today's film piece, I'll take a look at some of the strengths in the young corner's game as well as talk about where Surtain can improve going into Year 2.

Calm, Cool, and Collected

The biggest issue with young corners in the NFL is their tendency to panic in high-pressure situations and match-ups. There was simply no panic whatsoever in Surtain's game, as he looked like a 10-year veteran throughout most of the season.

He did a phenomenal job of trusting his technique and positioning in high-pressure moments. The best example is on this fade to Los Angeles Chargers star receiver Keenan Allen. Surtain is in perfect position throughout this play and is able to get the pass breakup on the route.

The best aspect of this rep is how calm Surtain looks with the ball is in the air. He doesn't grab or interfere with the receiver, he simply separates the ball from the man to get the incompletion. This is a textbook play by a rookie cornerback.

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Despite being a 6-foot-2 cornerback, Surtain is an outstanding athlete, and he plays like it on the field. The best use of his natural gifts comes when he is driving on underneath passes.

Surtain has an unreal ability to stop and start out of his backpedal, and he is able to break up a ton of underneath passes as a result. This clip below, against Allen yet again, is a good example of what I'm talking about.

He is in off coverage here, so Surtain knows he doesn't have to open his hips when Allen tries to sell the vertical route. He stays patient in his steps and breaks on the ball as soon as it is thrown to get the pass deflection.

This play against the Las Vegas Raiders is another example. Surtain is playing outside leverage against this route from receiver Bryan Edwards. Edwards does manage to cross his face and get to the outside, but Surtain stays right on top of the route.

The corner smoothly transitions to the outside and undercuts the throw for another pass deflection.

Instincts

Surtain has some of the best feel and overall instincts that I have seen from a young corner. He has a complete understanding of his drops and where he needs to be on every single snap.

One of his best plays as a rookie came against the Philadelphia Eagles on this near interception. He passes off his man to the deep safety, but still gets depth on the play due to the lack of underneath threats.

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Surtian continues to sink deeper into the throwing lane and nearly comes up with an outstanding interception.

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Areas to Improve (Not Many)

Honestly, I don't believe there is a singular area that Surtain has to improve. He was that impressive as a rookie. He could clean a few minor things up and improve his consistency a little bit, but that is just about it.

With more playing time and experience, there truly isn't anything stopping Surtain from being a top-5  cornerback in the NFL. He is that clean, technically sound, and athletic as a corner.

Play of the Year

Looking back over just about all of Surtain's rookie snaps, one play early in the season stands out among the rest. This interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 was simply phenomenal, and it ended up being a sign of things to come.

Surtain opens early in this rep and works vertical off the snap. He gets in great position on the inside hip of the receiver and squeezes the route to the sideline. Once there, he makes an incredible over-the-shoulder catch for the interception.

This is a Pro Bowl, maybe even an All-Pro, caliber play. The Broncos are in great hands with the future of Surtain II.

Bottom Line

Surtain was a pick that was highly scrutinized on draft night. The criticisms mostly centered around the Broncos' neglect of the quarterback position rather than any real analysis of Surtain and his play.

Separating him from the quarterback talk, Surtain is going to be a really good player for the Broncos for a long time. He showed everything that was needed out of a top corner in just one year of play.

Even though the team struggled in 2021, the Broncos have to be happy with this development from their top pick.


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