ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was once asked what was best about doing well with a first-round pick. He barely let the last syllable of the question go out into the world before giving his answer.
“The best? The best is when the guy walks in exactly as advertised,” he said. “The best thing is when what you see is who you have.”
Two of the highest-profile rookies, Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) and most likely They show that they are exactly as advertised. and maybe more.
Surtain, who the Broncos selected No. 9 in last April’s draft, has started seven of the Broncos’ eight games, has played all defensive attacks in four of those games, and his seven passes defended are already the sixth most. for a newbie on the team. history.
Parsons, who the Cowboys selected at No. 12, has started every game and was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a performance of 11 tackles, four a loss, in Dallas’ win over the Vikings. from Minnesota.
“Pat, I’m really impressed,” Broncos general manager George Paton said this week. “He’s a pro. He keeps getting better every week. I think he’s going to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league. I haven’t doubted that … For a rookie, he doesn’t burn out, that’s what happens.” I like him. “
“An impact player,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of Parsons. “It fits very well with our defensive philosophy and how we want to play defense.”
His initial success comes as no surprise to the league’s talent screeners. Surtain came into the draft process with all the physical traits – size, speed, and agility – scouts covet as a cornerback. He also has a strong mental structure as the son of a former NFL cornerback that he learned from Nick Saban of Alabama, who still coaches Crimson Tide’s defensive backs in practice every day.
Parsons also had an uncommon speed of 4.40 on the 40-yard dash at 246 pounds. He has the strength to master the offensive lineman and the athleticism and awareness to first diagnose and then chase plays. His versatility has already been clearly evident, as the Cowboys have used him as both a linebacker and a defensive end.
Versatility, McCarthy said, was one of the main reasons the Cowboys were happy to see their name still on the board as their pick approached.
“Absolutely,” McCarthy said. “I think everyone [did]Based on where we ranked him on the board, we ranked him the best defensive player in the draft. “
Both players were available last April as the Broncos prepared to make their first pick. Both had been thoroughly examined, with due diligence. But Paton had hinted in the weeks leading up to the draft on how he would prioritize things in his first year as general manager. Paton spent a lot in free agency on defensive backs: He re-signed safety Justin Simmons to a $ 61 million deal and signed cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller.
Paton, as well as coach Vic Fangio, have stuck to the “you can never have enough corners” approach and Paton described his fervor in propping up that part of the depth chart based on his belief “that it’s a space league. and coverage. “
“And Pat has been great … he has that humble confidence,” Simmons said. “He’s not afraid of the big moment, no matter who he faces. Obviously, I think that’s showing in his game … he makes a difference while playing man coverage and doing the things that he does.”
Both Surtain and Parsons will make up a large part of their defenses for years to come. Just days before linebacker Von Miller was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, one of the things he listed as one of the reasons he wanted to “be part of the solution” for the Broncos’ current playoff drought was Surtain. .
As Miller said: “You want to be a part of her career as she flourishes and does amazing things.”