ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —As the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft progressed on Thursday night, the board fell about how General Manager George Paton and the Broncos expected.
Three quarterbacks came off the board within the first three picks, and the Falcons and Bengals followed by selecting Kyle Pitts and Ja'Marr Chase, respectively. The Dolphins snagged Jaylen Waddle at No. 6, and the Lions selected Penei Sewell with the seventh pick. And despite the plethora of rumors about the Panthers trading back, Carolina stayed at No. 8 and selected cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Somewhere in those first eight picks, though, a team made a pick the Broncos didn't quite expect. Because while Paton said Thursday night that draft progressed largely as expected, they didn't think cornerback Pat Surtain II would make it all the way to No. 9.
Perhaps Denver thought Miami or Detroit would take a defensive player. Maybe the Broncos expected the Panthers to take Surtain over Horn. They may have even thought a team would trade in to select Surtain ahead of them at No. 9.
Surtain fell to Denver at the ninth pick, though, and Paton and the Broncos decided the value was too good to select another player.
"We had a lot of teams — three or four teams — calling us to trade back," Paton said. "We were in those discussions as we were on the clock. Again, it would've taken a haul to pass Patrick Surtain."
The 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American wasn't the only talented player on the board; Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had yet to be drafted when the Broncos made their selection.
Surtain, a dominant player in coverage who allowed just four touchdowns in 41 career games, proved himself worthy to the team's brass of the ninth-overall pick.
"The board just kind of fell where Surtain was there and we couldn't pass him up," Paton said. "He was just too talented, too unique, too good off the field, too good on the field. I'm familiar with his dad, with his family. It was a home run for the Broncos to get Patrick Surtain."
Head Coach Vic Fangio said the team's pick was unrelated to Bryce Callahan's health, as the veteran cornerback is "100 percent healthy."
Instead, Surtain will give the Broncos' needed versatility in Year 1, and Fangio said that with most teams playing with five or more defensive backs on more than 75 percent of their snaps, the team would have "plenty of opportunities to get him in there."
"What I like about him is he's shown that he's very capable both in man and zone," Fangio said. "I think he has good eyes — meaning that he sees more than just the guy he's lined up on — good tackler in the running game, has good ball skills and I think he has the versatility — although we really haven't seen it on tape — everything we know about him and what he's shown, there's a good chance that he can play inside, too, if we need him to, meaning as the fifth or sixth DB."
Paton said Surtain "was close" to being one of their top-five prospects in the draft and that the team had him graded as their best defensive player.
"We were surprised he was there and we were happy that we have him," Paton said.