The ‘season of lies’ is what the NFL community dubs the pre-draft process as the first round rapidly approaching in 28 days. The Denver Broncos, media, and fans alike have meticulously simulated their own mock drafts while debating which direction greenhorn GM George Paton will lead the franchise with pick No. 9.
ESPN draft expert Todd McShay released his mock draft version 4.0 on Thursday, projecting the first defender off the board in the 2021 draft class to land with the Broncos.
McShay projected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II to the Broncos at pick No. 9. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound junior is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year and son of former NFL Pro Bowl corner Patrick Surtain, Sr.
Considered by many in the scouting community to be the premier cornerback of the 2021 draft class, Surtain II played in 40 games for the Crimson Tide. He leaves Tuscaloosa with 38 consecutive starts, logging 116 tackles (82 solo), six tackles for a loss, 24 passes defended, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one touchdown.
Surtain enters the draft as a first-team All-SEC defender and was named the Defensive MVP of the 2021 Rose Bowl. To some in Broncos Country, the Surtain-to-Denver projection comes as a perplexing surprise especially after the ink from recently-signed free-agent corners Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller has yet to dry on their new contracts.
Denver7's Troy Renck put things in perspective.
“Let’s remember that McShay remains plugged in and is predicting the draft based on what he's hearing, not on what he would do and the idea of the Broncos taking a cornerback is not completely misguided."
Fuller joins teammate Bryce Callahan, a player yet to complete a 16-game NFL season healthy. Both enter a contract year with the Broncos. Sprinkle in veteran safety Kareem Jackson’s one-year contract, and Paton undoubtedly has to plan for the future in the secondary.
Along with Surtain, Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley is a first-round corner prospect who recently announced that he’ll undergo a microdiscectomy procedure to repair his back prior to the draft. While it’s debated whether or not the surgery will hurt Farley's draft stock, South Carolina’s Joe Horn is also among the cornerback elite, along with Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II.
A trio of Round 2-caliber cornerback prospects would compliment head coach Vic Fangio’s defense very nicely. Surtain has always been the top-rated corner on my board and that’s not a knock against Farley or Horn.
Surtain’s discipline and football acumen separate him from the rest of the pack, as he can play in both press-man and zone-coverage schemes. His size and physicality make him the ideal prototypical boundary corner, but it's his tackling and rare willingness to mix it up in the SEC running game that has impressed NFL coaches and scouts.
Once again, the NFL world continues to rage on as everyone debates the merits of his or her favorite prospect. While McShay's projection wouldn't be my favorite pick for the Broncos at No. 9, it could be a good thermostat checking the temperature of the room at UCHealth Training Center.
The hardest part of projecting prospects to teams is getting past what we would personally do and instead, estimate — to the best of our knowledge and ability — which player the Broncos will most likely select.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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