There's been plenty written about the quarterback run most anticipate will happen at the top of the 2021 NFL draft—as many as five signal-callers could be selected inside the top 10. A run on pass-catchers should also come early, which will likely include LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, Florida's Kyle Pitts, and Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
There's a flip side to all that. With no consensus No. 1 edge-rusher or cornerback in the Class of 2021, quite a bit of uncertainty looms about who will be the first defensive player taken April 29 in Cleveland.
But there's a young defender who checks all the boxes to take that distinction. His talent is unquestionable. He plays a premium position. His production was elite at college football's highest level. And he even has an NFL pedigree, as his father played in the pros for 11 years and made it to three Pro Bowls.
Patrick Surtain II of Alabama has everything it takes to become a shutdown pro cornerback in short order.
He was a key component of a defense that helped lead the Crimson Tide to another national championship in 2020. His career stats at Alabama aren't especially eye-popping—116 total tackles, four interceptions and 24 passes defensed in three years as a starter.
But those stats don't tell the whole story. Opposing quarterbacks didn't exactly attack Surtain, and when they did, they didn't have much success. By the end of his final collegiate season, he was a consensus All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year—the first corner to win the latter award since Morris Claiborne in 2011.
Surtain's father, Patrick, who played for the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs and who coached his son at American Heritage High School in Florida, is admittedly biased. But he thinks his son is clearly the No. 1 prospect at his position in this draft, telling Stephen M. Smith ofTouchdown Alabama Magazine: