NFL Draft: Defensive backs led by Patrick Surtain, Jaycee Horn

NFL Draft preview: Defensive backs

Overall

Cornerback-needy teams in the first round on April 29 can be patient because the early part of the round will include runs on quarterbacks and receivers and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Safety-needy teams can wait until the second round. Carolina drafts eighth overall and it could break the seal on defensive players with a cornerback and Dallas at No. 10 figures to go corner, too. At cornerback, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley and Northwestern’s Greg Newsome figure to go in the first round. The first two safeties, Central Florida’s Richie Grant and TCU’s Trevon Moehrig, will be available late first/early second.

The Top 10

1. Patrick Surtain, CB, 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, Alabama: A three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Surtain had only one interception, but 12 pass break-ups in 38 career games. The son of Patrick, Sr., a former NFL cornerback, Surtain projects as an instant NFL contributor who has experience in press and zone coverage.

2. Greg Newsome, CB, 6-0, 192, Northwestern: A mid-to-late first-round projection if a team like Dallas at No. 10 prefers Horn. Newsome played only 21 college games (71 tackles, one interception and 25 pass break-ups). He was limited to six games in 2018 because of an ankle injury.

3. Jaycee Horn, CB, 6-1, 205, South Carolina: A three-year starter for the Gamecocks who posted 101 tackles, two interceptions and 23 pass break-ups. Opted out of the 2020 season after seven games when coach Will Muschamp was fired. Horn’s, father, Joe, was a long-time NFL receiver.

4. Trevon Moehrig, S, 6-1, 202, TCU: A good option for Jacksonville at No. 25 if it doesn’t go defensive tackle, Moehrig moved from cornerback to safety during his 2017 redshirt year at TCU and that coverage background will help him in the NFL. In 34 games, he had 125 tackles, seven interceptions and 28 pass break-ups.

5. Richie Grant, S, 5-11, 197, Central Florida: A good Senior Bowl Week, when he showed good range, moved him into the early second-round mix. Grant had 290 tackles, 10 interceptions, 18 pass break-ups and six forced fumbles in 46 games. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at his Pro Day. Grant would be a steal if he’s there for the Broncos at No. 40.

6. Caleb Farley, CB, 6-2, 197, Virginia Tech: NFL teams can semi-overlook injuries, but a back issue is a concern and Farley has had two operations, including one this spring. Plus, he redshirted in 2017 because of a torn ACL on the first day of preseason camp. When healthy, he’s been productive — six interceptions and 25 pass break-ups in 24 games. He opted out of the 2020 season.

7. Asante Samuel, CB, 5-10, 180, Florida State: A draft season riser after a solid junior year (three interceptions and 31 tackles in eight games) and a Pro Day that included a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. Like Surtain, Samuel’s father (Asante Sr.) played in the NFL. Samuel started 23 of 32 college games and had four interceptions for FSU.

8. Eric Stokes, CB, 6-0, 194, Georgia: Along with Samuel, Stokes is among the cornerbacks who will be available early in the second round. Stokes had 78 tackles, four interceptions and 17 pass break-ups in 37 games (26 starts) for the Bulldogs.

9. Jevon Holland, S, 6-1, 207, Oregon: He was super productive in two years for the Ducks, posting totals of 110 tackles, nine interceptions and 19 pass break-ups in 27 games. He also had a 15.3-yard punt return average in 2019. Holland opted out of 2020 season.

10. Tyson Campbell, CB, 6-1, 193, Georgia: Campbell’s high school coach in Florida was former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, Sr. For Georgia, he started 24 of his 33 games and had one interception and 11 pass break-ups.

Stock Rising

Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

Despite only 22 college games (21), teams should be intrigued by Adebo’s production — four interceptions apiece in 2018-19. As a redshirt freshman, he was second nationally with 23 pass break-ups.

Stock Falling

Shawn Wade, CB, Ohio State

Wade opted to return for his junior season and it sent him plummeting into the third day of the draft. In his first two years, he had a combined four interceptions and 57 tackles in 27 games. He had two interceptions last year.

Five-year trend

2016: Seven (first round picks).

2017: Eight.

2018: Six.

2019: Three.

2020: Six.

Coming Monday: Tight ends

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