Who is 2021 NFL Draft's CB1? Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr. make cases for Patrick Surtian II and Caleb Farley
When it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft, we’ve already heard a lot about the quarterbacks and wide receivers in the class.
But, there are also a pair of elite cornerbacks in the class — Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Farley opted out of the 2020 season, while Surtain recorded 37 tackles, 1 interception (returned for a touchdown) and 9 pass breakups while helping the Crimson Tide win the national championship.
So, who should be the first corner off the board? ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay debated that question on the ESPN First Draft Podcast. Kiper said he currently gives the edge to Farley (via 247Sports):
“Patrick Surtain II to me is one of the tougher evaluations,” Kiper said. “I liked the experience, liked his fundamentals, his technique. Got beaten some. He had the recovery ability at times. (Former Virginia Tech cornerback) Caleb Farley, I went back and looked at him in 2019, he was so good. I mean, Caleb Farley really had a good year. And he’s got length, a former wide receiver. Doesn’t tackle well. That’s something he’s gotta show a little more toughness, and tackle and be more consistent in that area. But in coverage, he located, he was getting those late pass breakups. I mean he was really a lockdown cover corner in 2019. So I look at Farley, had he played this year, I think he could have been a top-five pick. (Jeff Okudah) went way up there. Why couldn’t Caleb Farley go up there? The only thing that prevents you from going too crazy with the ranking, I have him nine right now on the big board with Surtain at 15, is the fact he didn’t play.”
McShay discussed how they’re both elite, but he gives the edge to Surtain when it comes to physicality:
“They’re different corners when you watch them,” McShay said. “Because Surtain, you know, with his background obviously his dad was in the league for 14 years I want to say. And 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. And then when you see him press, press wide receivers and reroute them, that’s where I think he’s at his best. Sometimes, you know, he does a really good job of studying quarterbacks eyes and following where the quarterbacks are going. And then he kind of has to figure out where the receiver is at times. And that, it’s both a positive and a negative, because sometimes he lost the receiver. But for the most part, he was able to shut them down.
“But he’s such a pro. He’s physical. (Surtain’s) got basically everything you look for, but Farley he’s not the tackler. He’s not quite as tough and physical, but I would say, if you gave one one-on-one against a No. 1 receiver, Farley I would probably choose over Surtain. But if you said in a game in the right system, Surtain may be the guy that you want because he brings a little bit more in terms of the whole package that you need at corner. Especially now in the league with so many screens, and RPOs and the quick slants, you’ve got to be able to tackle and be right there when the ball gets there.”
Who will be the first corner off the board? We’ll find out in Round 1 in April.