Cover 9@9: Patrick Surtain II is the top cornerback in the draft

1. The no spin zone. Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II has laid claim to being the top cornerback in the draft.

So has South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.

With the 49ers trade up to the third slot, the draft intrigue will start at No. 4 with the Falcons’ pick.

The Falcons can take the fourth quarterback, the top position player in the draft or trade back for picks.

If they trade back, Surtain could be in play.

Or, if the Falcons determine him to be the best player available, they could take him at No. 4 overall. In 2018, the Cleveland Browns made a similar move when they selected Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall and then selected Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward fourth overall.

If the Falcons believe they can fix their offensive blocking woes and bypass Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, they could use a corner who thrives in man-to-man coverage like Surtain, who’s 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds.

Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he plans to blitz from everywhere to create a pass rush. He won’t be able to do that without two cornerbacks who can play man-to-man coverage. With Surtain and A.J. Terrell locking up receivers, Pees would then be free to send the kitchen sink whenever he felt like it.

“I love the guy,” Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses said. “I helped recruit him when he was first coming in as a freshman. Seeing his growth into a player, I’m proud of him.”

Surtain’s father, Patrick Surtain I, played 11 seasons in the NFL from 1998 to 2008. He was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins and went on to make All-Pro once and was selected to three Pro Bowls.

“Any team that drafts him is going to get like a competitive, tough guy,” Moses said. “He’s real technical when he’s on the field. He’s like a technical machine. He goes out there and does what he’s supposed to do, but he’s also like a real football player. He plays with a lot of passion. He’s hard working. A great teammate.”

Surtain has studied NFL cornerbacks.

“I look at corners that have my body type and skill set,” Surtain said. “I’ve studied a lot of Jalen Ramsey, Jaire Alexander, Tre’ Davious White, Patrick Peterson and Xavier Howard. Those guys because I feel like my skill set can carry over to their type of skill set in the league and translate.”

He was humble when asked to make his case to be selected No. 4 overall.

“I just think that whatever teams picks me, I’d be excited for the opportunity,” Surtain said. “I don’t really care which pick I go to, which round I’m in. I’m just ready to play for whatever organization that picks me.”

Surtain believes he’s ready for the NFL after going against former Alabama wide receivers Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith over the past two seasons in practice.

“Going against those guys in practice helped me (to get) better as a player, going against them, competing against them,” Surtain said. “Every week you are confident going into the game because you are not going to face many receivers like them. So, in practice I treated it like a game atmosphere. ... I’m pretty sure I made them better and at the same time, they made me better.”

Surtain is leaving Alabama after his junior season. He made 38 consecutive starts and was an unanimous first team All-American. He allowed 25 yards receiving or fewer in 10 of 13 games last season.

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban comments on the elements that make his former starting quarterback a good candidate for NFL.

Opposing quarterbacks tended to stay away from Surtain’s side of the field. He was targeted just 48 times in 2020 and allowed 21 completions for 273 yards. He broke up a team-high 12 passes and had 38 tackles.

“I just think my consistency stands out,” Surtain said. “Just come in day-in and day-out, doing what I need to do to go out there and perform at a high level.”

After playing in the NFL, the elder Surtain became a high school coach in Plantation, Florida. He coached his son.

“The best part is just learning from him each and every day,” Surtain said. “Understanding and taking his knowledge with me and carrying it on. He’s a great coach. He wants you to do better and perfect your craft.”

Surtain believes he has NFL man-to-man skills.

“I just think that my patience at the line, my poise,” Surtain said. “I’m very fundamental when it comes to press (coverage)…Eyes on the hips, feet and hands. Just patience at the line of scrimmage. Just know, to force the receiver to release and then you can see where he’s going to go.”

He’s proud of carrying on the families’ football tradition.

“My dad has been a huge inspiration in my life,” Surtain said. “Just from him holding me and raising me to the young man that I am today, I’m very thankful for him. He’s taught me a lot of things on and off the field, whether if it’s in football or just life. Him having a tremendous impact on my life has definitely meant a lot.”

2. Blank on voting in Georgia. After helping to get out the vote, Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke about the voter suppression laws recently passed by the Georgia legislature. Here’s columnist Michael Cunningham’s take on the situation.

3. Mike Davis on Marshall Faulk. Falcons running back Mike Davis is a big Marshall Faulk fan.

“I loved watching Marshall Faulk play man, on the turf,” Davis, who signed with the Falcons, said. “There was this one play where he scored against the Cleveland Browns where he kind of like juked back and he didn’t even look at the guy. Every since then, I was just like this is my favorite running back. I always wore 28 because of him.”

The former Stephenson High and South Carolina back has a tattoo of 28 on one shoulder and USC on the other.

His favorite Falcons back is Warrick Dunn, but he also was a fan of Michael Turner and Steven Jackson.

4. On his 1,000-yard season. Davis rushed for 642 yards and had 373 yards receiving for 1,015 yards from scrimmage last season with the Panthers. He filled in for the injured Christian McCaffery.

“I was most grateful for the opportunity,” Davis said. “You don’t ever want to see anybody get hurt. The only thing I hated, I took personal how people kind of wrote us off when I was there because I guess people didn’t know what I could do. I felt like kind of like disrespected a little bit. So, I took everything personal when I was playing.”

Alabama football coach Nick Saban is very complementary of his former running back and the abilities he would add to an NFL team.

5. Saban on Harris. Falcons coach Arthur Smith had former Alabama back Derrick Henry with the Titans.

While the Falcons have signed Davis, they still need help at the position and could take Alabama back Najee Harris in the draft.

The Falcons would likely have to trade back into the first round to get Harris or they could hope that he slips into the second round, where they have the third pick, which is 35th overall.

“I think if you check the record, every running back that we’ve had here since we came here has been a third-round or better in terms of the draft and how they got drafted,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday. “We’re very proud of that in terms of the quality of guys that we’ve been able to recruit, but also with how they have developed in the program here.”

Saban doesn’t like to compare his former players, but he spoke to the merits of Harris’ game.

“Najee is, I think, an exceptional player,” Saban said. “He’s got great size. He’s a really good receiver. His instinctive as a runner. He’s tough. He’s hard to tackle. He kind of gets better as the game goes on.”

Harris was listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds at Alabama. Henry is 6-3, 247 and became just the eighth player to rush for more than 2,000 yards last season in Smith’s offense.

Henry was selected in the second round (45th overall) by the Titans in 2016.

Harris finished his career as Alabama’s all-time leader for total touchdowns with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving). He’s the school’s career leader for rushing scores with 46, which surpassed the previous record of 42 held by Mark Ingram and Henry.

Harris 3,843 career rushing yards is tops on Alabama’s all-time list.

“So, he’s got some really, really positive attributes,” Saban said. “He’s always been a good team guy here. I love the guy and think he’ll be really, really good player at the next level.”

6. 17th game added. It’s official and it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars.

You can add another game to the Falcons’ 2021 schedule after the NFL owners approved adding a 17th game on Tuesday. The Falcons will travel to the Jaguars in the extra game. The extra games feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division last season. The Falcons (4-12) finished last in the NFC South and the Jaguars (1-15) finished last in the AFC South.

Dates and times for the NFL schedule have not been released. In addition to their NFC South opponents, the Falcons will play Philadelphia, Washington, New England, New York Jets and Detroit at home and Dallas, New York Giants, Buffalo, Miami, San Francisco and now Jacksonville on the road.

The 17-game schedule will be played over 18 weeks.

Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders perform in U.S. uniformed service like-outfits during the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Sunday, November 8, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

7. Cheerleader tryouts. The Falcons will host a blended audition process to make the 2021 cheerleading squad.

Candidates will submit dance videos virtually during the preliminary and semifinal auditions. Final auditions will take place in person and socially distanced.

Leading up to the auditions, a variety of dance and audition prep classes will be offered to the candidates interested in learning about the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders dance techniques and style.

Virtual dance prep classes will be held on April 13 and April 24. Audition prep classes will be held on May 11 and June 5.

For more information register here. Follow @ATLCheerleaders on Twitter.

8. Free agency tracker. The Falcons planned to go value shopping in free agency and have added six players.

The Falcons have agreed to $10.41 million in contracts and paid out $2,162,500 in signing bonuses.

Davis was the lone free agent to receive a two-year deal. The other players have signed one-year deals.

One of the stunners of free agency is that former Falcons safety Keanu Neal received only a one-year contract for $3 million from the Dallas Cowboys.

Here’s a look at the updated Falcons’ free agency tracker.


Ricardo Allen, FS: Released on Feb. 18. Agreed to one-year deal with the Bengals.

Allen Bailey, DE: Released on Feb. 18.

James Carpenter, OL: Released on March 9.


Erik Harris, S: Agreed to terms March 18. He signed a one year, $1.35 million deal and received a $300,000 signing bonus. A total of $600,000 is guaranteed.

Brandon Copeland, LB: Agreed to terms March 18. He signed a one-year, $1.04 million deal and received a $50,000 signing bonus and $300,000 of his contract was guaranteed.

Mike Davis, RB: Agreed to terms March 23. He signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal, which included a $1.5 million signing bonus. A total of $3 million of the deal is guaranteed.

Barkevious Mingo, OLB: Agreed to terms March 23. He signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal. A total of $1.1 million in guaranteed including a $175,000 signing bonus.

Fabian Moreau, CB: Signed a one-year, $1.27 million deal. He received a $137,500 signing bonus. A total of $987,500 of the deal is guaranteed.

Josh Andrews, CB: Agreed to one-year contract with guaranteed money.


Lee Smith, TE: Sent a seventh-round pick in 2022 to Buffalo.


Keanu Neal, SS: Did not receive the franchise tag. He signed a one-year fully guaranteed $3 million deal with the Cowboys.

Damontae Kazee, FS: Has announced that he’s moving on. He has signed with the Cowboys.

Alex Mack, C: Weighing his options, which include retirement. He signed a three-year, $14.85 million deal with the 49ers. A total of $5.6 million was guaranteed.

Darqueze Dennard, CB: Played on a one-year contract in 2020.

Todd Gurley, RB: Played on a one-year contract.

Charles Harris, DE: Signed a one-year $1.75 million fully guaranteed deal with the Detroit Lions.

Brian Hill, RB: Is a valuable special teams player.

Justin McCray, OL: Was backup offensive line help. Signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Texans and received a $500,000 signing bonus.

Steven Means, DE: Played in all 16 games and made 11 starts. Finished with three sacks.

Sharrod Neasman, FS: Solid backup and special teams player.

LaRoy Reynolds, LB: Speedy special-teamer.

Edmond Robinson, LB: Provided quality depth while playing in 13 games in 2020.

Luke Stocker, TE: Blocking tight end who spent time with Arthur Smith and the Titans in 2017 and 2018.

Laquon Treadwell, WR: Played last season on a one-year contract. Made a couple of plays late in the season.

John Wetzel, OT: Has basically been veteran insurance at tackle.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB: Has provided quality depth at cornerback spot. Played in 15 games last season and had three interceptions


A player with three accrued years (at least six games) of service is a restricted free agent. The Falcons’ RFAs are:

Matt Gono, OL: He made four starts last season. He signed his $3.384 tender.

Brandon Powell, WR: No tender was made. He was the kickoff and punt returner last season. He signed with the Bills.

The team can place three levels of tenders on these players for a non-guaranteed one-year deal. Other teams can sign an RFA to an offer sheet, with the current team having a chance to match, or a team can allow the player to leave and receive draft compensation based on the tender level.


Younghoe Koo, PK: Signed on Thursday, March 11.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, DE: Signed on Thursday, March 11.

Tyler Hall, CB: Signed on Thursday, March 11.

Christian Blake, WR: Signed on Thursday, March 11.

Jaeden Graham, TE: Signed on Friday, March 12.

9. Updated depth chart. Andrews, a veteran offensive center/guard who played at Oregon State, is set to sign a one-year deal with guaranteed money with the Falcons, according to his agent Brett Tessler.

“(Andrews) looks forward to bringing his experience and versatility to Atlanta,” Tessler wrote in a tweet on Monday.

The 6-foot-2, 298-pound Andrews played last season with the Jets and has made four starts in 40 career games. Andrews, 29, has also played with the Eagles (2014-2015) and Colts (2018-19).

Here’s the updated depth chart:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake

LT 70 Jake Matthews

LG 73 Matt Gono, 66 Willie Wright

C 61 Matt Hennessy, Josh Andrews

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 72 Willie Beavers

TE 81 Hayden Hurst, Lee Smith, 87 Jaeden Graham

WR 83 Russell Gage, 16 Greg Dortch

WR 18 Calvin Ridley

QB 2 Matt Ryan

HB Mike Davis, 25 Ito Smith, 30 Qadree Ollison, 26 Tony Brooks-James

FB 40 Keith Smith


DE 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat

DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 50 John Cominsky, 79 Chris Slayton

DE 56 Dante Fowler

OLB Brandon Copeland

LB 45 Deion Jones, 46 Edmond Robinson

LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker

OLB Barkevious Mingo

RCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, Fabian Moreau, 29 Chris Williamson

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 44 Tyler Hall

NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 42 Delrick Abrams

FS Erik Harris, 39 T.J. Green

SS 32 Jaylinn Hawkins


K 7 Younghoe Koo, 1 Elliott Fry

P 4 Sterling Hofrichter, Dom Maggio

LS 47 Josh Harris

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

KR 14 Chris Rowland

PR 14 Chris Rowland

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top nine picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 3.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

4. Denver Broncos (trade with Falcons): Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

6. Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

8. Carolina Panthers: Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)

9. Falcons (trade with Broncos): Micah Parsons, (OLB, Penn State)

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