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Mock Draft Monday: Here's Who An Analytics Expert Has Washington Drafting In The First Round


The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinion of the team.

Ron Rivera hit a proverbial home run with his first draft pick as the head coach of the Washington Football Team.

Chase Young, selected second overall, exceeded expectations by making the Pro Bowl, earning Defensive Player of the Month in December and becoming the franchise's first Defensive Rookie of the Year. His game-changing plays, combined with his "crazy unusual" leadership, immediately made him one of the faces of a team on the rise.

Rivera's second swing will be with the No. 19 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he'll have a pair of new executives -- general manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney -- helping him make that decision. They'll aim to add another valuable piece to help build a consistent winner.

In anticipation for that selection, which will be made April 29, will highlight one mock draft from a notable draft expert each week and delve into how that player would fit with Washington. Here are the analysts who have been highlighted over the past month:

Next up is NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund.

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Allowing chunk plays in the passing game was one of the few weak spots on Washington's defense, and if Rivera wants to draft a player who can help the team improve in that area, there are few better options than Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II.

Surtain, whose father was an eight-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection, had one of the most dominant performances for a college corner in 2020 and is regarded as one of the best defensive prospects the SEC has to offer this year. His final statistics -- 37 tackles, nine pass breakups and an interception returned for a touchdown -- earned him a mass collection of awards, including a unanimous first-team All-American selection and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award from the Associated Press.

But even the numerous awards that surely pack Surtain's trophy case do not do his excellence justice. Offenses found little to no success when targeting Surtain, which is likely why he was only targeted 48 times all season. Quarterbacks completed just 43.8% of their passes for a measly 273 combined yards in Surtain's direction, and he allowed 25 receiving yards or fewer in 10 games.

"Ooh, my model likes Surtain, especially in the NFC East, where currently only the Cowboys pose a big threat to Washington," Frelund wrote in her latest mock draft. "Per [Pro Football Focus], over the past two seasons, no receiver covered by Surtain earned more than 65 yards in a single game."

PFF has proclaimed Surtain as the best cornerback in the country, and a barrage of analytics back that up. In a list of the top 101 college players of 2020, in which Surtain was ranked as the top defensive back and second-best defensive player overall, writer Anthony Treash pointed out that Surtain allowed a seventh-best 0.53 yards per coverage snap this season among FBS players. What is even more impressive is how Surtain played in the College Football Playoff, allowing just 23 yards against Notre Dame and Ohio State combined.

Surtain's trajectory has steadily risen since signing with Alabama. He earned an overall grade of 79.0 for his freshman All-American season in 2018, then followed that up with an 83.5 grade in 2019. Last season, he was the top-graded corner at 89.9.

"Playing for Nick Saban, you see the discipline, the run support, his willingness to tackle and get off of blocks and do all those things," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said in his evaluation of Surtain. "And then when you see wide receivers and reroute them, that's where I think he's at his best."

Adding Surtain to Washington's defense would make it an even more formidable group. Even with all the turnover at multiple positions, Washington allowed the second-fewest passing yards in 2020. It is unknown whether or not Surtain would be a Day 1 starter with Kendall Fuller under contract and Ronald Darby possibly returning to the roster this offseason, but he would provide even more talent in the secondary.

Surtain's speed is the only question PFF has about his ability, saying on its analysis of him that "there are times on tape where receivers were striding away from him downfield." Even so, PFF points out that Surtain is "the highest-floor corner in the class."

"There's not a more technically advanced and consistent cornerback in the draft class," Surtain's PFF analysis reads. "Even at 6-foot-2, Surtain is still more than capable of tracking receivers into the slot and coming out on top."

Cornerback is not necessarily regarded as Washington's top priority this offseason, but the consensus is that Surtain can improve any defense he joins in 2021. And even if he does not become a starter, Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have proven they will find a way to get players on the field if they deserve it.

Given Surtain's track record at one of the most dominant college football programs in history, he should have no problem accomplishing that.

"There's a lot to love about Surtain's game," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Surtain ahead of the 2020 season. "The three things that stand out to me are his size, instincts and ball skills. That's a great foundation to start with when you're trying to build an upper-echelon NFL cornerback."

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