The Denver Broncos have seemingly hit a home run with their 2021 first-round selection of Patrick Surtain II, and for evidence of this, one need look no further than the fact that Peter King — one of the most established and highly respected minds in football media — is tabbing Surtain as his dark horse selection for Defensive Player of the Year.
“You all will see my awards predictions a little later in the week. But there were a few where I wanted to stick my neck out a little, and just didn’t have the stomach for it,” King wrote to preface the Surtain mention. “So I pocketed those with the idea I’d do a dark-horse list of awards candidates at some point, and this seems like a good time for it. And again, these aren’t my picks—these are the guys that, honestly, I sort of wanted to pick but didn’t have the stomach to.”
Honestly, even as an extreme Surtain optimist, it’s hard to imagine him winning Defensive Player of the Year. The award has only been handed out to a true boundary corner twice in the past 30 years. Jalen Ramsey, who Surtain is often compared to, has never won it, and the same can be said for cornerback legends Champ Bailey, Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman and almost every other great cornerback of the past three decades.
The reason for this is that when a safety, defensive lineman or linebacker have a truly special season, it results in a lot of stat tabulation. Concrete numbers one can hang a DPOY candidacy on.
For cornerbacks, it’s the exact opposite.
If a cornerback is doing their job at the highest possible level, they’ll never see a pass thrown their way, greatly diminishing their ability to compile stats, especially splashy stats like interceptions, where luck is a large factor. These superstar cornerbacks aren’t being targeted enough for luck to bounce their way, as the sample size is made minuscule by their own terrific play.
After watching Surtain every day at Denver Broncos Training Camp, it’s easy to buy-in to the notion of Surtain potentially being the best defensive player in the entire National Football League next season, but the nature of the award makes it unlikely he’s rewarded with the corresponding hardware, ultimately.