The 2021 NFL Draft is around the corner and we’ve seen mock drafts created by fans that have shown who their favorite is for the 10th pick, we’ve also seen who the Cowboys media think they are considering with the 10th pick in the draft. From all of that, the consensus seems to be that one of these three players will be the Dallas Cowboys next first-round draft pick. But what would America's Team really be getting if they draft one of these young and talented players?
Every player coming into this draft has been talked up and not too much is said about the cons of the player being drafted. There’s always a risk when taking a player, especially now when teams aren’t able to really get to know the player by meeting them in person. Instead, they have to meet via Zoom and have to trust their scouting departments and tape to figure out the best fits. Let’s take a look at these top choices for the Cowboys and see what they will bring, good and bad, if they are taken with the 10th pick in the draft.
Patrick Surtain II - The Logical Choice
When you mention Surtain II in this draft people think he’s the most logical choice for the Cowboys at number 10 if he’s still there. He’s regarded as one of the top cornerbacks, if not the top cornerback, in this year's draft class. He would be an immediate upgrade at a position of need for the Cowboys who pass defense ranked 27th in passing touchdowns allowed and 21st in average yards allowed per pass according to ProFootballFocus. Surtain II has been compared to another former Cowboys cornerback, Byron Jones, who while a great player, was criticized for his inability to get his hands on the football during his time with the Cowboys. Surtain II, over his career in Alabama, was more consistent at when he was actually challenged by quarterbacks, but is that enough? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons if the Cowboy do take Surtain II.
Size and Strength - The addition of Surtain II would give the Cowboys a physical cornerback just like Byron Jones. A cornerback who’s able to match up with the bigger and more physical receivers in the NFL and not get pushed around. This will come in handy if the Cowboys want to get to the Super Bowl where they will have to deal with receivers like Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.K. Metcalf. The Cowboys would be able to rely on him as they did Jones to defend these larger receivers while allowing Trevon Diggs, another talented cornerback, to handle their other receiver.
Most Pro Ready Cornerback - Surtain II is a rare talent, a pro-ready cornerback who meets the specifications of a typical number one cornerback in the NFL who’s also coming out of a collegiate school that runs a pro-style NFL scheme. He possesses a very high football IQ which allowed him to retain information at a high level and translate it to the field quickly. He’s a good run defender and isn’t shy about getting in on the action when needed. Seen as more of a zone scheme cornerback, he has the ability to step in a man system and get the job done. Over his career, Surtain’s reputation as a solid pass defender made quarterbacks hesitant to throw his way, you can’t say that about too many other cornerbacks in this draft.
Short Area Quickness - Many bigger cornerbacks have a fatal flaw in their ability to defend receivers and that’s one that Surtain has as well. He has trouble dealing with receivers who are able to get off of his jam and use their quickness to break off quick routes, mainly slant routes. Teams were also able to use that weakness with double moves, which then allowed the faster receivers to get behind Surtain for big plays.
Top End Speed - So by now we’ve all seen Surtain’s 40 time at his pro day where he ran a 4.42 which many weren’t expecting out of him. Let’s pump the brakes on that time, we know all of these players have been training for this for months now, so that, along with many of these runs being hand-timed, makes it hard to trust the times given. Instead, we need to look at game tape and if there’s another area where Surtain looks vulnerable it’s defending receivers like Ja’Marr Chase who can match his physicality but also turn on the jets. Surtain has difficulty recovering at times.
Kyle Pitts - The Fan Favorite
The people have spoken and Pitts is the player most want if he falls to the Cowboys at number 10. Seen as one of if not the most talented players in this draft, Pitts would immediately come in and boost an already high-powered offense and turn it into a juggernaut that teams wouldn’t be able to defend. Last season the Cowboys, according to ProFootballFocus, ranked 25th in the league at the tight end position and that was before the injury to Blake Jarwin. Dalton Shultz was a pleasant surprise last season, but he wasn’t the physical presence in the middle of the field that was able to scare teams the way Pitts has the potential to do. But, again, is that enough to warrant the Cowboys spending a top-10 pick on a position that hasn’t panned out when selected in the first round lately?
Speed and athleticism - If you’re looking to create the ultimate mismatch on the football field then Pitts gives you that and some. A player with the body of a tight end but the speed and athleticism of a wide receiver, Pitts would be a commanding presence in the middle of the field and add a nice punch to the already talented receiver group of the Cowboys. Pitts showed out at his pro day running a 4.44, but the real eye-opener was his 83 3/8 wingspan. That is a real game-changer when you have a target that can get vertical against linebackers and safeties, with that wingspan and speed who’s able to catch any ball in his general vicinity and also have the potential to take it to the house.
Football IQ - Athleticism alone isn’t always enough to get the job done in the NFL, you have to be smart as well. Pitts is very smart in terms of playing the tight end position, he knows how to find the soft spots in zone coverage, making things easier for his quarterback to complete passes. He knows how to use his body to box out smaller defenders forcing them to let him make the catch and get the tackle or draw a flag trying to get through him and to the ball and make a play.
Blocking - One drawback to Pitts' game is his blocking ability. He’s a very willing blocker and puts forth a good effort, but he’s going to be stepping into the NFL and these players are a lot stronger and faster than the players he’s gone up against and struggled with in college. This means the Cowboys would be in another situation like they currently are with Blake Jarwin who can make plays in the passing game but isn’t the best blocker. That allows defenses to figure out ways to attack Pitts, especially in the running game.
Physical Defenders - Pitts' other issue is that he’s had problems with a certain defender this past season in Jaycee Horn, who was physical with him and able to get under his skin. Pitts ended that game with four receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns but those scores came against other players, not Horn. Pitts is going to be matched up against linebackers and safeties that are stronger and more physical, but also a lot savvier in the way they will defend him not allowing him to use his size to his advantage.
Jaycee Horn - The Wildcard
If you listen to 105.3 The Fan, then you’ve probably heard radio personality and draft analyst Jeff Cavanaugh pounding the table in favor of Horn and for good reason. Horn is an aggressive and physical cornerback that isn’t afraid of anyone across from him. His aggressive mentality and on-field personality is something that the Cowboys secondary has been missing since Deion Sanders was wearing a star on his helmet. Horn also has the size, speed, and strength to get the job done at the next level. He ran a 4.39 forty and put up an impressive number in the broad jump as well. Horn could come in and give this secondary a shot of energy that is sorely needed.
Most versatile cornerback - When teams are looking at cornerbacks, they are trying to decide on whether they are best suited to play inside or outside. Well, Horn is good enough to play both and has the ability to follow a team's best receiver all over the field, getting rid of potential mismatch situations that offenses like to create. And once that happens Horn begins to get in that player's head and get them off their game.
Sticks to receivers like glue - Another talent that Horn has is his ability to stick to receivers and not allow them any breathing room to get open thanks to his ability to jam players at the line of scrimmage. Once he gets his hand on a receiver it’s over and he’s going to be a tough person to shake at that point, which in turn forces quarterbacks to hold onto the ball too long or find another receiver.
Penalties - A drawback to the aggressive play that Horn brings to the table is the tendency to create penalties in coverage. Coming into the NFL things are called a lot tougher and defensive backs can’t use a lot of the tricks that they did in college. Horn is a prime candidate to learn this the hard way as he does tend to hold onto jerseys in an effort to stay with receivers at times.
Man vs Zone - Horn is a great defender but not all defenders work in certain schemes. Dan Quinn’s in particular is mainly a zone-based scheme that requires cornerbacks to play more Cover 3 zones instead of man coverage, where Horn thrives. This scheme has the outside corners dropping back into a deep coverage with the free safety, this is a situation that sometimes you see Horn fall asleep in his duties or biting on fakes. He’s better suited for a man cover scheme in some people's eyes.
It will be interesting to see who the Cowboys decide to pick in the first round. They may throw us all off and take a player that we never thought would fall just like CeeDee Lamb last season, or a player that we aren’t really thinking about, maybe someone on the offensive line or at linebacker.