Sat, 08 May 2021

Mike OHara

Patrick Surtain II of Alabama has a lot in his favor to be considered the top prospect in the pool of talented cornerbacks in the 2021 draft.

His resume speaks for itself. Surtain started 38 straight games in three years at Alabama. He was the SEC's defensive player of the year for the 2020 Crimson Tide team that went undefeated and demolished Ohio State in the national championship game.

Surtain's Pro Day workout validated his physical skills. At 6-2, 206 he had an unofficial time of 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical jump and 18 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

The bloodlines are also there. His father, Patrick, played cornerback for 11 NFL seasons.

And Surtain faced high-level competition regularly, and not just against talent-rich SEC teams on gameday.

"Just the players he went against in practice every day," Surtain's father said in a radio interview last month. "You were going against four first-round draft picks every day to sharpen your tools."

The first two receivers drafted in 2020 were from Alabama: Henry Ruggs III to the Raiders, Jerry Jeudy to the Broncos.

Jaylen Waddle and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith are projected to be high first-round picks on April 29.

Head coach Dan Campbell singled out the Lions' cornerbacks in one of his first press conferences.

"We have two young cornerbacks," Campbell said, referring to 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah and 2019 fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye. "You still need competition. It's healthy.

"It makes you better."

Following is the cornerback position's draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five cornerbacks who could interest the Lions.

Cornerback draft strength: A solid group at the top, with Surtain probably the top pick but not automatic.

Lions cornerback depth: Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Quinton Dunbar, Corn Elder, Mike Ford, Godwin Igwebuike.

Lions' cornerback draft priority: The Lions are likely to draft a cornerback, but not before Day 2.

Five cornerbacks who could interest the Lions:

1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

6-2, 206

Stats line: Played every game in three seasons at Alabama -- with 38 straight starts -- and made an impact as a true freshman with seven pass breakups in 15 games, with 12 starts. That launched an outstanding career, culminating in 2020 with 3.5 tackles for loss and 12 passes defended.

How he could fit the Lions: A top cornerback prospect with size who made plays all over the field.

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2. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

6-2, 207

Stats line: Redshirt freshman in 201, 24 career games with 23 starts in 2018-19 combined. Opted out in 2020. Big 2019 season: 16 passes defended, 12 pass breakups to lead the ACC and four interceptions. A recent back procedure could lower his draft position.

How he could fit the Lions: Would add another big cornerback to the secondary. Ability to get to the ball is a badly needed element.

3. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

6-1, 205

Stats line: Three-year player, 30 games. Two career interceptions, both in 2020, and three career sacks.

How he could fit the Lions: Physical and uses size and strength well.

4. Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

6-1, 190

Stats line: Played in 21 games in three years. One career interception with 25 passes defended -- 21 coming in 15 games in the last two seasons.

How he could fit the Lions: Good size, and solid play against the run and pass give him versatility.

5. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

5-10, 184

Stats line: Showed promise as a 2018 freshman with nine pass breakups in 12 games with three starts. Last two seasons: 20 starts, four interceptions, 20 pass breakups. His father, Asante Sr., played 11 NFL seasons at cornerback, with 51 career interceptions.

How he could fit the Lions: Good instincts, like his father, and can play in the slot or outside.

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