The Broncos continued their college scouting process on Tuesday, as they attended the University of Alabama's first pro day.
Broncos Director of College Scouting Brian Stark led the team's contingent in Tuscaloosa, where a number of top draft prospects worked out ahead of April's NFL Draft.
Patrick Surtain II, arguably the top cornerback in this year's draft, measured in at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. He ran an impressive 4.42-second 40-yard dash, and he posted a 39-inch vertical jump and 131-inch broad jump, which ranks in the 93rd percentile for cornerbacks. Surtain also posted 18 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
The 2020 consensus first-team All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year was projected to the Broncos by plenty of draft experts ahead of free agency. Surtain, though, did not earn honors as the best defensive back in the country. The Jim Thorpe Award went instead to TCU safety Trevon Moehrig.
"I can only control the things that I can control," Surtain told NFL Network on Tuesday. "At the end of the day, whatever I do is what I do best. Awards and accomplishments, I felt like at the end of the day, as a team we won a national championship, [which is] even a bigger accomplishment. … Even though I didn't win it, I just kept working hard and kept putting my head down and not let any external things distract me."
He allowed just 21 completions for 273 yards this season and broke up nine passes. He made 38 consecutive starts and forced four fumbles for the Crimson Tide during his three-year career. Surtain's success likely came in part from his ability to practice against top receivers, including Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
"Iron sharpens iron," Surtain said. "Coming to Alabama, you expect that hard work, competing against each other every day. Me and 'Smitty' [Smith] had great battles each and every day at practice. At the end of the day, we got each other better. The position we're in now, we just look back at it like it was worth it."
The Broncos' need at cornerback may not be as pressing after signing Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency, but Surtain could remain an option with the ninth-overall pick.
"Surtain has an ideal blend of size, speed and ball skills," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah wrote of Surtain in his prospect rankings. "He's at his best in press coverage. He doesn't consistently re-route receivers, but he avoids false steps and has plenty of speed to stay on top versus the vertical passing game. He will struggle at times versus smaller/quicker pass catchers. Like most big corners, he lacks top-flight short-area quickness. He has good eyes from off coverage, though. He identifies route combinations and makes aggressive plays on the ball. He is tough to fill versus the run and he's a reliable tackler in the open field. Overall, Surtain is a very similar prospect to Marlon Humphrey when he was coming out of Alabama. I envision similar success for Surtain at the next level."
Jeremiah's latest rankings, which were posted in late February, list Surtain as the second-best cornerback and 14th-overall prospect.
Denver's evaluation may not have ended with Surtain, though.
Quarterback Mac Jones showed off his arm Tuesday during a throwing session, which included a number of accurate deep passes.
"I wanted to make the toughest throws that I could, and I tried to show a little bit of everything, even if I was a little bit uncomfortable with it, just to show that I'm going to come out here and compete," Jones told NFL Network. "… It was fun. I came out here and slung it around. Obviously I wish I had a bunch of throws back, but it is what it is and I'll watch the tape and of course I'm going to be a little frustrated about the ones I missed, but it is what it is."
Broncos General Manager George Paton said last week that quarterback was "in play" with the team's ninth-overall pick.
Jones, who ran a 4.86-second 40-yard dash, started the last two seasons for the Crimson Tide and threw 55 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. His 2020 season was by far his finest, as he completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards, 11.2 yards per attempt, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 203.1 quarterback rating. His completion percentage, completions, passing efficiency rating, yards per attempt and passing yards all ranked first in the nation.
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound player led Alabama to a national championship win and earned consensus All-American honors, the Davey O'Brien Award as the most-outstanding quarterback and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the most-outstanding senior quarterback.
Jeremiah currently has Jones ranked as his fifth-best quarterback and 34th-overall prospect.
"Jones has average size and athleticism for the quarterback position," Jeremiah wrote. "He's operated out of the shotgun and pistol, showing incredible accuracy, efficiency and poise. He is a high-effort thrower, with slightly above-average arm strength. He's at his best on touch throws, where he can anticipate and place the ball on the proper shoulder of his target. He shows toughness to hang in versus pressure, although he rarely faced it with an elite offensive line protecting him. He isn't much of a threat as a runner and he lacks the twitch to consistently escape and buy extra time. Jones should become a starting NFL quarterback, but his lack of twitch and athleticism will limit the playbook with the way the game is trending."
Jones said Tuesday he believes he will be able to execute his game at the next level.
"I think it's a really good QB class, and I try not to pay too much attention to it and just focus on myself, but there's some ballers out there," Jones said. "I've gotten a chance to watch a lot of their tape and they're great players. I'm a different player, but I do what I'm supposed to do, do my job and do it to the best of my ability. I always say, if you want me to throw the bubble pass, I'll throw the bubble pass. If you want me to hit it deep, I'll hit it deep. I'm just going to do what the coach tells me and execute the offense."
Waddle, Smith, running back Najee Harris, linebacker Dylan Moses, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and defensive tackle Christian Barmore are among the other top Alabama prospects in this year's draft.