Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II burst onto the scene with high expectations as a rookie and basically exceeded them. As he prepares for his second season, Surtain already appears like he’s a veteran player.

Patrick Surtain II’s rookie rise

After Broncos general manager George Paton selected Patrick Surtain with the 9th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, fans were shocked that Denver went cornerback over a quarterback.

But by Week 2 of the 2021 season, Broncos fans were drawn in on how special the rookie draft pick could be. Surtain’s first interception of his career would help the Broncos hold off the Jacksonville Jaguars, guiding the Broncos to a 2-0 start.

Throughout last season, Surtain’s high football IQ, fundamentally sound play, and impeccable technique demonstrated that he was miles ahead as a player than most rookies usually show in their first season.

After starting 15 games his rookie season, Surtain finished with 4 interceptions, 58 tackles, and an impressive 14 passes defensed. What stood out as even more impressive was his efficiency in coverage.

Opposite of him in the secondary is Ronald Darby, who spoke during organized team activities about how impressed he was with Surtain’s rookie season.

“That’s what surprised me, how quickly he picked it up,” Darby said. “Not a lot of guys coming out of college, especially at corner, and get thrown into a starting role and plays as good as he did. To me, he had a Pro Bowl year last year. I know he’s going to continue to build onto that.”

According to Pro Football Reference, Surtain allowed 49 completions on 96 targets (51%) resulting in opposing teams’ quarterbacks having a 61.3 QB rating when targeting him.

In comparison, Los Angeles Rams star CB Jalen Ramsey allowed 58 completions on 98 targets (59.2%) resulting in opposing quarterbacks having a 71.1 QB rating when targeting him.

While Ramsey worked under new Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero last year, Surtain will have the opportunity to have a bigger impact in 2022 as the Broncos CB1.

How will Surtain have a bigger impact next season?

While the Broncos have gotten better this offseason, the rest of the AFC West and NFL have also gotten better.

Surtain drew several tough wide receiver matchups in his rookie season, and he’ll draw some more challenging tasks this upcoming season.

In 2021, Surtain held Cincinnati Bengals star receiver Ja’Marr Chase to 1 catch for 3 total yards on 4 targets. Against former Kansas City Chiefs now Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill, Surtain limited his production to 2 catches for 22 yards on 5 targets while snagging an interception in coverage of Hill.

Heading into this season, Surtain will likely draw the matchup assignment of some of the NFL’s best receivers with Davante Adams, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and DeAndre Hopkins all as opponents.

If Surtain can continue on the trajectory he’s had, he’ll earn immediate recognition nationally as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL.

As Surtain and the Broncos defense transition their 3-4 scheme with new terminology, his role in the secondary is expected to evolve even further heading into this season.