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Inside The Birds: Surtain II Or Horn Best Fit For Secondary?

April is here, which means the Eagles will soon be picking at No. 12 in the NFL draft.


On the latest Inside the Birds podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan take a deep look into cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, and who could fit under Jonathan Gannon’s new scheme.


(Alabama CB product Patrick Surtain II is expected to be the first or second CB taken in the 2021 NFL Draft)

Defensive Scheme

Geoff Mosher: “So what we've heard is that they're going to be a little bit more exotic, you'll see some Cover 2, which you didn't see a whole lot of under Jim Schwartz, you're gonna see some disguised coverages. For example when you watch Minnesota tape you'll notice Anthony Harris is up around scrimmage looking like a box safety a lot and then the ball is snapped and all of a sudden, he's back with Harrison Smith in a Cover 2. So it looked like a Cover 1, quickly became a Cover 2, that's part of the surprise and the guesswork that we talked about. Some inverted Tampa 2, you have your safeties that play a little closer, your cornerbacks take deep drops so you're gonna see a lot of different things.”


Adam Caplan: "Cover 3, too, someone who coached with Gannon told me it's gonna be Cover 2 and 3. He’s gonna run [Mike] Zimmer's defense, his own version of it with whatever little nuances plus whoever he learned from, his mentors he’ll take from. Coaches do this when they become coordinators, they take a little bit from the guys that they work for. What they like, don't like, whatever they don't like they throw out, whatever they like they bring in. But yeah you're right it's Cover 2 but obviously the Eagles don't have Harrison Smith, who's an absolute stud.”


First Round CB?

Mosher: If the Eagles take a cornerback in the first round – Horn, Surtain, whoever. In your mind, should that preclude them from taking a cornerback in the second round?


Caplan: “No, no. Tell them why”


Mosher: "Well, look, first of all the Eagles have one starting-caliber outside corner and his name is Darius Slay, and he's going to be 31, so they need help at corner. Reason No. 2 is if it's the best player available, then you take him because he's your highest-graded player and you don't want to pass on that just because, ‘Oh, I got a cornerback in the first round.’ What if your first round corner gets hurt? Corners get hurt all the time. You take as many good players as possible, because with cornerbacks you can get many of them on the field. Which will parlay into my third point, Adam. You're seeing now more than ever an emphasis – and I think the Patriots started this and Brian Flores has done it down in Miami, the guy already had Xavien Howard, then they gave a boatload of money to Byron Jones and they drafted [a first-round cornerback]. Teams are playing as much sub-package defense as you possibly can.”


Jaycee Horn

Mosher: "Jaycee Horn, let's start with him, because the intel I get is when you're trying to compare Horn or Surtain, the thing that really jumps out about Jaycee Horn, South Carolina, son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, who was a hell of a receiver. I mean this kid is an athlete, he's got it dripping out of all the pores of his body. He is the athlete at cornerback that you would want."


Caplan: "I always worry about, when you say someone's a superior athlete, how good the tape is. Well, the tape is outstanding. Surtain isn't the athlete that Horn is but, again, it's what do you want out of cornerback? Jaycee Horn steps on the field, he's starting Week 1. I don't care who drafts him, he's starting Week 1, there's no debate, this is what's happening. The pick range I have for him is anywhere from 4 to 12. When I say 4, I know that sounds super high but Atlanta needs defense so bad. They have so little talent, they need corners out the ying-yang, but they need anything. But the bottom line is you won't get past 12 with the Eagles, if the Eagles stay at 12. Horn is really really good out of South Carolina as you said and upside is terrific, and he's not just an athlete, he's a guy that does a lot. He's smooth, he's got really good size, he's an outside-only corner. Can he play inside if you need to? Sure because if he's a trail corner you know trail corners have to play inside.”


Patrick Surtain II

Mosher: “The thing about Surtain when digging into him, is that there are so many good checkmarks as far as instincts and smarts and football intelligence. And again not to make it sound like he's not a great athlete, he's a very good athlete in his own right, maybe not like Jaycee Horn but still a guy who, more so, has maybe the best understanding of the game, spatial awareness and where you want to be."

Caplan: “Yeah, he's better in man-press. He's tremendous in that area. So is Horn but you're kind of nitpicking here if you say one's better than the other in press. I'm getting this from coaches and scouts and they like both guys. If you asked 10 people I would guess 6 are gonna say that like Horn better, but again it's what you want, they're both really good. I hate to say can't miss, but I'd be very surprised if both aren't very good at the next level.”

Eagles Secondary

Mosher: "If you draft a pretty good corner and you're playing a little more Cover 2, a little more protection for your corners, Darius Slay has a decent enough season, maybe bounce back from some of the tough games he had last year, and Avante Maddox actually plays well in the slot ... I know I'm getting far ahead but all of a sudden you can see the pieces kind of come together to have a decent secondary after you know, years of kind of an ‘eh’ secondary.”


Caplan: "For argument's sake, if they draft one of these corners at 12, OK, you've got Maddox slot, Slay outside corner, Horn or Surtain outside. They still have to draft or add two outside corners, you cannot line up without four outside corners, you just can't. Not in today's NFL. Teams are in spread offenses, three or four receivers all the time. Plus the other thing is with these crazy athletic tight ends now, Darren Waller, Kelce, all these guys who changed the game. Sometimes these tall corners Horn or Surtain, anywhere from 6-foot to 6-foot-2 are going to be on these tight ends.”


Caleb Farley

Caplan: "Caleb Farley is fascinating. I don't know if you know his background – really, really amazing. You know he opted out last season, he was a high school quarterback, was recruited as a receiver, had a knee injury leading up to his freshman season. Redshirted year one and gets moved to corner, only played corner for two years and his tape is so good. "He didn’t even play last season and had he not had these back surgeries, the second one was from lifting weights ... these things rarely happen that a guy who’s only played a position for a short period of time is so good. He's a mid-first-round pick without the back surgeries. Heck, he could have been the first corner taken, arguably there with Horn, Surtain and Farley. Now we don't know but it's too bad because he's got everything, size, athleticism. Again, he’s a high school quarterback. "He’s played on both sides of football. You love everything about it, but now he's had a second surgery, not really the first one, but nevertheless, I'm gonna say something a little bit radical here: I think he's gonna go in the first round. I thought for sure no, but when I checked into it this past week, because I knew we were doing corners at some point soon I wanted to know where teams were on him. I'm not saying he's definitely going in the first round, to make it clear here, I'm not saying he’ll definitely go in the first round. I think he will.”

– Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff contributor to InsideTheBirds.com


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