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Broncos Reveal Why CB Patrick Surtain II Has a 'Target on His Back'

Is the NFL gunning for Patrick Surtain II?

Last week, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton poked some fun at the ubiquitous lists and rankings that dominate the offseason news cycle.

“It seems like every day on Twitter, we are grading something," Payton said. "We’re grading drafts, or we’re grading offseason programs. I’m not putting a grade on it."

One name that frequently appears in the upper echelons of such offseason lists is Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Suffice to say, those within the Broncos' inner circle, who work daily with Surtain, are salivating at the potential strides he can make with his already elite All-Pro career.

Broncos secondary coach Christian Parker gets to manage and mold Surtain's prestigious skill set once again this season, and he knows the sky is the limit for Surtain.

"I think he can improve a lot more," Coach Parker said Wednesday. "I think just based off what God's given him from the physical standpoint, his mental ability and his mental focus, I think the sky's the limit for him... As well as he's done these first two years, I think he has a lot more he can get out of himself."

After his stellar rookie year, Surtain showed a level of maturity that belies his 23-year-old age, and he went on to attain both Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition in his sophomore campaign. Year 3 could see the talented corner make the transition to becoming a bonafide NFL superstar if he carries on his current trajectory. 

Having created such immediate success, the flip side is that Surtain also becomes a target to opponents.

"If anything, I think he understands that he has a target on his back," Parker said of Surtain. "So each week, people are going to expect him to give something up or to fail. So I think that actually drives him a little harder. And I think Pat is the rare instance of... he was the number one corner coming out of high school, his dad's an All-Pro player, he was the second corner taken in the draft. He's used to being in that position and having people going for him. So I think he's been able to keep a level head throughout everything and continue to work hard and earn everything he's gotten."

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Surtain’s graduation to superstar status might seem assured, but if teams opt to stay away from his side of the field, it could mitigate his penchant for making big plays. Despite Payton and the special teams coaches getting Surtain to field punts in practice, it remains doubtful that he would be risked as a full-time return man.

So baiting teams with coverage packages that allow Surtain to still be a factor will be a responsibility new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will have to get creative with. It's fair to wonder whether Surtain’s God-given blend of size, length, and speed could be used to lock down Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Time will tell. 

One thing that's abundantly clear is that Joseph is well aware that in Surtain, he has stewardship of a generational-type player moving forward. 

"He's special," Joseph said of Surtain. "I've watched him play in a lot of games, and he's special. He's a prototype when it comes to height, weight, arm length and all those things. His special trait is his intelligence. He's a very, very smart player. He understands the game, and he works at the game on a daily basis. When you combine that part with his physical traits, it's unique. He's coachable, and he wants to get better every single day. He's definitely a special player."

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