Entering his first draft as general manager of the Denver Broncos, George Paton knew he had to hit all the marks if he was to quickly engineer the team back to competitive NFL ranks. Holding the No. 9 overall pick, and with the second-year struggles of Drew Lock in mind, it took a cool head to not reach for a quarterback with which Paton could have easily stamped his own image.
Instead, the first-year GM made the cleanest possible choice by taking Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Surtain's arrival punctuated a fierce offseason haul for Paton, who rebuilt the team's secondary to be a feared unit across the league.
Early signs are that Surtain comes as advertised. Everything he says points towards his dedication and thirst to master his craft as he soaks up the wisdom of his veteran teammates.
“I just want to know things that they know about on the field, different techniques I could use,” Surtain told Aric DiLalla of the team website. “You always don’t want to be one-dimensional. You always want to pick certain guys' brains and try and emulate their game because you know they’ve been in the league for a long time. Just to be able to pick their brains will help me a lot.”
An inherent danger always exists in taking decorated college stars from big programs and sending them back to square one with their development. To help with the transition, the 21-year-old has a stronger support system than most other rookies because he has his father (and namesake/former NFL corner Patrick Surtain Sr) close at hand.
Before the draft, Paton shrewdly brought in free-agent veterans like Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller to pair with Denver's slot expert Bryce Callahan to provide additional in-house experience. Such is the Broncos' available depth at corner.
Each practice will represent a school day for Surtain. But the rookie may have to be patient if he's to gain the trust of his coaches and march inexorably toward increased playing time.
“I’ve got to most definitely earn my stripes,” the first-round pick said. “Nothing is given, everything is earned. I’ve got to go out there and prove myself each and every snap, each and every play. I’m just looking forward to it.”
It’s a given that come the dog days of a hot training camp, Surtain’s resolve will only be further tested, but it’s a challenge he appears ready to embrace.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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