Gut Reaction: Broncos Skip a QB to Draft Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II at Pick 9

The Broncos made a draft-day decision that shocked many fans. Was it a bad decision, though?
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The NFL draft is often described as a roller coaster with its manic ups and downs. However, Broncos Country experienced many more twists and turns than initially expected after being connected to the disgruntled Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Then, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields slid from his top-5 projection range into the lap of Denver Broncos' GM George Paton with the No. 9 overall pick.

After the clock hit zero and the pick was in, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Broncos had selected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II.

While I was initially caught off-guard with the Surtain pick, due to the red-hot QB market, the selection is a home run for Paton and the Broncos. I’ve previously written multiple articles ad nauseam connecting the 21-year-old defensive back to Denver and projecting his fit in Vic Fangio’s defense.

It's time to react to the selection!

Good Stock

Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) makes an interception he returned for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. The pass was inteded for Mississippi State wide receiver Cameron Gardner (18).

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Junior is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year and son of former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain, Sr. Considered by many in the scouting community to be the premier corner of the 2021 draft class, Surtain II played in 40 games for the Crimson Tide. 

He leaves Tuscaloosa with 38 consecutive starts and logged 116 tackles (82 solo), six tackles for a loss, 24 passes defended, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one scored touchdown.

Surtain is an exceptionally physical corner that makes it very difficult for wide receivers to separate. He thrives in press man-coverage but still has a vast knowledge of zone schemes, which made him a valuable pick for Denver. 

As a large defensive back, he’s also a willing participant in the run game, something Coach Fangio demands from his corners. Surtain's tireless work ethic is renown as much as his exceptional football acumen and understanding of route concepts.

I can remember watching the Broncos face off against Surtain, Sr. with the Kansas City Chiefs in what seems like yesterday but was, in fact, in the mid-2000s. Now, it seems that life has gone full circle as his son fulfilled his dream of being drafted. Call it a feel-good story if you want, but football is a family business.

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Quarterback Implications

Drew Lock

The NFL is a QB-desperate and driven league. Period, end of story. So how could Paton pass on both Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones?

The answer: Paton wasn’t in love with either QB. 

As much as Broncos Country desperately clamored for the Ohio State dual-threat phenom or Alabama’s razor-sharp signal-caller, Paton didn’t feel that either prospect fit into Denver’s future. While fans will quickly turn to the 2018 Josh Allen nightmare that the Broncos are still enduring, there’s a distinct probability that only one or two of these first-round QBs will have long, prosperous careers in the league.

Let’s put on our tinfoil hat for a moment. Regarding the reigning MVP Rodgers being linked to the Broncos. Green Bay needs defensive backs and is staring down the barrel of an ugly standoff with the perennial Pro Bowler declaring that he will not return to the Pack.

Could the Broncos have selected Surtain with the hopes of still being in on a trade for Rodgers?

Possibly, but not likely. Yes, crazier things have happened, but this isn’t the NBA where players are selected from a random lottery and traded from their original team before they even land in that city.

From what I gather about the Broncos' rookie GM, he's very loyal and respectable as an NFL executive, and as a man. I have problems envisioning him calling Surtain on the biggest night of that young man’s life with disingenuous motives to trade him for a package that brings Rodgers to Denver. 

Paton has too much respect for the league, players, and significance of the caliber of prospect he just obtained with Surtain. Just because a rookie QB was not selected tonight, doesn’t mean that the incumbent Drew Lock can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Prior to the draft, the Broncos pulled the trigger on a deal that brought veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater to Denver from Carolina. Meaning, Bridgewater is the competition that Paton vigorously referenced obtaining since his introductory press conference.

Nonetheless, there are multiple rumors that the Broncos feel as if they still have a chance to land Rodgers without trading away their new defensive star.

Time will tell.

Long-Term Depth

Another reason for the selection of the ‘Bama star is relatively simple. The Broncos' defensive backs aren’t exactly in it for the long haul.

Although the reunion of Fangio and former ex-Chicago Bears' corner Kyle Fuller was a definite win for Denver, it’s only for a one-year deal. Furthermore, veteran corner Bryce Callahan has yet to complete an NFL season healthy through no fault of his own.

Then there’s the one-year rental at safety with the return of fan-favorite Kareem Jackson. So, with the exception of recently-signed Ronald Darby, who’s playing under a multi-year contract, the selection of Surtain ensures longevity and youth in a pass-happy AFC West.

On Thursday night, the No. 9 overall pick, was asked about his initial impression of the Broncos in his first Denver media press conference.

“It’s a very stacked defense,” Surtain exclaimed. “I can’t wait to compete with those guys each and every day.” 


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