Patrick Surtain II and Javonte Williams named to PFWA All-Rookie team

Cleveland Browns' Anthony Schwartz can't get to a deep ball as Denver Broncos' Par Surtain II defends on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio, at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cleveland Browns' Anthony Schwartz can't get to a deep ball as Denver Broncos' Par Surtain II defends on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio, at FirstEnergy Stadium. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal] Browns3

It’s no secret that the Denver Broncos hit multiple home runs with their selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, and now the awards and honors acknowledging that fact are starting to pour in.

The latest honor to go to Denver’s sterling rookie class is that Patrick Surtain II and Javonte Williams have been named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s 2021 All-Rookie Team.

The Broncos were one of just eight teams to have multiple players make this year’s All-Rookie Team, and the inclusion of Surtain and Williams on the list keeps a six-year-long streak alive of the Broncos having at least one rookie make the All-Rookie Team. In that six-year span, Denver has had multiple members of their rookie class make the list three times now.

While Williams and Surtain earning this honor shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, the fact that they were both named as the No. 2 rookie at their respective positions might come as a surprising disappointment to large portion of Broncos Country.

At running back, Williams is placed behind Najee Harris, who was this year’s first running back taken. Harris had the advantage of being a lone back on a better team, and as a result of not having to split carries, leads Williams in most counting stats. However, if you look at any rushing statistic on a per-carry basis, you’ll see that Williams (and 49ers rookie back Elijah Mitchell) were much more efficient and effective running backs than Harris this season.

At cornerback, Surtain II is placed behind Greg Newsome, which feels even more curious. According to Pro Football Focus’ advanced stats Surtain allowed targets to be completed at a lower rate, had a passer-rating-allowed that was nearly 30 points lower than Newsome (96.6 to 69.7 (best among rookies)), allowed fewer targets and receptions on a per-snap basis, had the same number of forced incompletions (9) and pass breakups (8), recorded four interceptions to Newsome’s zero, and was a better tackler, as he missed tackles at a lower rate (13.5 percent to 10.9 percent). Plus, Surtain played four more games, as Newsome missed time due to injury.

It should also be noted that recency bias should also favor Surtain, as a lot of his stats are sandbagged by his struggles in the first quarter of the season. Down the stretch, the divide between him and Newsome was even wider, making it even more puzzling that Newsome was voted onto the All-Rookie Team ahead of Surtain.

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