There are a handful of lockdown corners currently playing in the NFL, but to Football Outsiders’ Derrik Klassen, Pat Surtain II stands above the rest.
Despite being in just his second year in the league, Surtain has already proven that he can go toe to toe with the top receivers in the NFL. Matching up against Raiders superstar Davante Adams on Sunday, Klassen noted that Surtain's coverage was nearly flawless.
"Adams only 'got' Surtain twice throughout the game, both times on back-shoulder balls," Klassen wrote. "Adams was the best back-shoulder receiver in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers and has already rekindled his connection with Derek Carr in order to maintain that title. There's no shame in giving up a couple of passes, neither of them explosive, to the best receiver in the NFL on his favorite route. That was all Surtain allowed Adams to have all day. Any other time the two were matched up—which was often considering Surtain followed him everywhere but in the slot—Surtain slammed the window shut."
Klassen highlighted five plays from Sunday's game in which Surtain covered Adams, noting the cornerback's instincts, athleticism and meticulous film study on each play. While Adams finished the game with nine receptions for over 100 receiving yards, Surtain limited the receiver to just four receptions for 46 yards while he was in coverage and broke up multiple passes to Adams.
"Many cornerbacks are more impatient than Surtain, not because they're all stupid or antsy, but because they cannot move and recover the way he does," Klassen wrote. "Few cornerbacks are nearly as light on their feet or explosive out of breaks as Surtain, and Surtain does it as a 6-foot-2, 208-pounder with a 90th-percentile wingspan. Surtain's build and athleticism affords him a margin of error that other cornerbacks do not have, and he already has all the savvy and consistency to push that advantage to the maximum every snap.
"If Surtain can put all of that on display versus Adams, he can do it against anyone. There is not a receiver in the NFL who can get the best of Surtain for four quarters the way he is playing right now."
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Surtain will prove a tough matchup for Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., per ESPN’s Mike Clay. Looking at various Week 5 wide receiver-cornerback matchups, Clay pointed to Surtain's impressive perimeter coverage against DK Metcalf, Brandon Aiyuk and Adams this season as an indication that Pittman could struggle against the second-year cornerback on "Thursday Night Football."
"Denver has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (fewest over expected), as well as the fourth fewest to the perimeter," Clay wrote. "A big part of the success has been the play of Surtain. The 2021 first-round pick shadowed DK Metcalf and Davante Adams on their perimeter routes (combined 47 of 49) and also covered Brandon Aiyuk on most of his perimeter routes (15 of 21) in Week 3. In total, Surtain has allowed 103 yards and zero TDs on 25 targets (98 coverage snaps) this season. That includes 54 yards on 20 snaps covering Adams, 28 yards on 19 snaps against Metcalf and zero yards on 15 snaps against Aiyuk. Considering how well things have gone, it seems like a sure bet that Surtain will shadow Pittman this week. Pittman aligns out wide 78% of the time, so he can expect to be covered by the star corner 75-80% of the time. This is an obvious downgrade spot for Matt Ryan's top target."