Following the final slate of regular season games in Week 18, Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey looked back at the 2021 rookie class, evaluating the highs and lows of their first seasons in the league. Linsey put together PFF’s All-Rookie Team for the 2021 season, naming Denver's first-round pick to the defense.
After an impressive first year in the league, cornerback Pat Surtain II has garnered praise for both his coverage and his big-play ability. After earning a starting role in Week 2 following an injury to CB Ronald Darby, Surtain took advantage of his opportunity and never looked back.
"Surtain stepped into the NFL and looked like a veteran for the Broncos," Linsey wrote. "Teams simply weren't able to beat him over the top."
According to PFF, Surtain's numbers against big plays downfield back that up. Surtain was targeted 14 times in coverage on targets 20-plus yards downfield, but he allowed only one reception. He also recorded two interceptions in those 14 targets.
"A.J. Terrell and Emmanuel Moseley were the only two other cornerbacks in the NFL to allow one or fewer completions on at least 10 of those deep targets," Linsey wrote.
Surtain finished the season with 14 passes defensed and four interceptions, including a pick-six, putting him at the top of his rookie class at his position. With a full season under his belt, Surtain has looked every bit like the foundational corner Denver drafted him to be.
"Surtain was able to simultaneously limit those big plays at a high rate and make big plays for Denver's defense," Linsey wrote. "His 13 combined interceptions and forced incompletions ranked tied for first among all rookie cornerbacks over the regular season."
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After several teams made changes at the head coach position following the end of the regular season, PFF’s Anthony Treash ranked the potential openings based on the positives and negatives of each team.
The Broncos, with talented young playmakers on both sides of the ball, are an enticing option for potential head coaches.
"Denver has an above-average roster and the cap space to make it even better," Treash wrote.
Denver's defense, which is stacked with talent, particularly in the secondary, should prove to be a big draw for coaching candidates. The unit also ranked third in scoring defense in 2021.
"[Denver's] defense ranked 10th league-wide in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play in 2021," Treash wrote.
Despite an offense loaded with weapons, including wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton, as well as running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III, the unit struggled at times to put points on the board. According to Treash, an offensive-minded head coach and a new QB could make the Broncos contenders in 2022 and beyond.
"Luring an offensive-minded head coach — specifically one who could pry a big-name quarterback to the Mile High City — should be priority No. 1 for John Elway & Co.," Treash wrote.