The college football season finally felt like it was in full swing this past weekend, as the SEC began its play and the Big 12 returned to a full slate. There was even a ranked-on-ranked game and a big upset as Kansas State took down Oklahoma.
Watching the Kansas City Chiefs’ domination of the Baltimore Ravens, there doesn’t appear to be any gaping weaknesses — outside of the linebacker position, which played better last week — creeping this early in the season. So far, we’ve covered some linebackers, offensive linemen and wide receivers to keep your eyes on as a Chiefs fan.
This week, let’s work to the secondary and look at the cornerback position, as the Chiefs seem to be fighting a battle of attrition in the secondary.
Prospects to watch
Patrick Surtain II | CB | Alabama
Alabama vs Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Patrick Surtain II is the son of former NFL cornerback, Patrick Surtain, and while the name certainly put him on radars early on, his play has kept him there. Some that contend that Surtain could have rivaled Jeffery Okudah as the top cornerback in last year’s NFL Draft, but there are also some athletic concerns floating out there.
Patrick Surtain II | CB— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) October 3, 2020
+ Physicality off LoS and through stem
+ Strong jam
+ Ball skills over the shoulder
++ Route I.D. from off or in phase
+ Controls leverage/tempo of route
+ Can be a factor in run game
- Top end speed?
- Consistent effort in run game pic.twitter.com/Fwx5sOYbxy
Surtain is listed at 6 feet 2, 203 pounds and plays like a cornerback of that size. He’s incredibly physical at the line of scrimmage and does a good job using that strength to control receivers off the line of scrimmage. That same level of physicality is maintained throughout the route, as he alters wide receivers through their stem and fights for positioning at the catch point. Surtain’s best trait may be his general IQ and ability to dictate the wide receiver’s leverage. He does a good job with his footwork and hands off the line of scrimmage to control where the wide receiver is allowed to go. He also brings that same attitude when addressing ball carriers as a tackler and can be a plus player in the screen or outside run game.
Surtain is more experienced in man coverage — or a match-zone scheme that plays similar to man coverage — which is a good note for his transition to the next level. There are times that top-end athletes can cause some issues for him, especially those that are extremely quick. There are times in games in which his motivation to insert himself into the run game can waver up and down, but given the nature of blowouts for Alabama in college football, it could be a calculated risk.
Dillon Radunz | OT | North Dakota State
North Dakota State vs Central Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Dillon Radunz is an offensive tackle for FCS powerhouse North Dakota State who might be playing his only game of the season on Saturday.
Dillon Radunz OT #75— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) August 24, 2020
++ Hip unlock to pull either direction
+ Patient in pass pro
+ Foot speed to mirror
++ Explodes off ball low
+ Rolls hips into contact
+ Creates SPACE on down blocks
- Tries to "catch" every rusher
- Inconsistent kick slide depth
Senior Bowl Top 250 pic.twitter.com/eGMh5pQnkq
Radunz is best as a run blocker, with a bit of nasty in his game. He’s explosive off the line of scrimmage allowing him to dig out defensive linemen or open his hips up and pull laterally across the line of scrimmage. When contacting defenders while moving forward, he does a good job dropping his hips and keeping his arms in tight so he can really drive into them and generate space.
In NDSU’s offense, he’s been asked to perform nearly every kind of run block assignment and he looks comfortable in all of them. In pass protection, it’s easy to see Radunz’s athleticism, as he can easily mirror rushers as they work up the arc. He plays patiently and has strong enough hands to lock up pass rushers that give a clean shot at their chest.
Where Radunz was looking to improve this season was as a pass protector. Given the level of competition, he always looked like the best athlete on the field and was rarely challenged by NFL-level speed or strength as a pass protector. Right now, his inconsistent depth in his kick-slide and occasionally late hands that catch the pass rushers rather than strike them work. That may not be the case in the NFL, so this being his only game to show out, hopefully, he flashes some more refined pass protection skills to really drive up his draft stock.
Matchup to watch
Seth Williams (WR) vs Eric Stokes (CB) and Tyson Campbell (CB)
Auburn vs Georgia, 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
The best matchup of the weekend also brings one of the more exciting prospect matchups for Chiefs fans. With Sammy Watkins on the final year of his deal, the Chiefs may be looking for an “X” receiver to take his place in the future and the lack of high investment in the cornerback position has left that as an area fans would like addressed.
When Auburn and Georgia face off, there could be a top-50 pick at receiver going against one to two top-50 picks at cornerback.
Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell embody Georgia’s defensive back play currently. Big, long, and physical defensive backs that aren’t afraid to press wide receivers near the line of scrimmage or get dirty in the run game. Stokes is more experienced and a little further along technically right now. The concerns are his general athletic profile: his ability to turn and run with better athletes.
His physical play near the line of scrimmage has allowed him to be dominant at the college level. Campbell is the more fluid athlete who has quality speed and fluidity. He just hasn’t progressed from a technical standpoint. He brings that same level of physicality but has the hips to turn and run when threatened vertically.
Eric Stokes (@_jamane_) -Georgia CB— Crocky (@eric_crocker) June 27, 2020
Press work vs Florida.
I was impressed with his ability to consistently stay square and more times than not get hands on. Great patience. Didn't create the space for the receiver. Good feet before hands. Active feet. @CrockerReport #CRFB pic.twitter.com/xpsFRfUMtJ
There are limited pass attempts expected in Auburn-Georgia, so Stokes will have to make his few opportunities count. He is looking to show that he does have NFL-level athleticism and can stick to some interesting wide receivers on Auburn’s football team.
Campbell needs to first make sure he earns playing time in a fantastic Georgia secondary, and when he does get on the field, show an improvement in technique. He needs to work on staying more balance and not allowing receivers to manipulate his base and leverage so easily.
Auburn’s Seth Williams got off to a hot start last week against Kentucky — hauling down six catches for over 100 yards and two highlight-reel touchdowns. He’s a massive receiver that has a ridiculous catch radius and a knack for making contested catches. Going into the 2020 college football season, the greatest concern was generating separation at the next level — otherwise, he may be viewed as another catch-point dominant receiver at the college level that wouldn’t see the same success in the NFL.
Reports out of Auburn were that he actually slimmed down about 10 pounds heading into this season, which could help in the regard.
2021 Draft: Seth Williams WR— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) July 24, 2020
+ Quality footwork up stem
+ Physical off LoS; gains lev.
++ Catch point monster
+ Back shoulder throws; excellent at boxing out
+ Absorbs big hits like nothing
- Speed and quickness?
- Will he create separation at the next level? pic.twitter.com/36uuQV9yA9
Williams doesn’t play like just another big-bodied receiver. He has rather good footwork and an ability to attack a cornerback’s leverage. He looks like a quality route runner when snapping off his routes and getting cornerbacks to lean in one direction or another.
Against Georgia, he’s looking to continue showing he can beat cornerbacks during his route rather than just at the catch point, and this test is a good one. Two physical cornerbacks matched up with one of the more physical wide receivers in college football this season will be a show.
The bottom line
With the Chiefs looking dominant this past week against the Ravens, this week of college football can be a lot more leisurely for the fans of the draft process. There wasn’t any obvious weakness on the team that looks to need an immediate upgrade (again, besides linebacker, which we have covered).
So this week, sit back and relax while watching some good football.
Some quality cornerbacks are going to be tested by good offenses. At some point, the Chiefs will select a defensive back with a day one-or-two draft pick — perhaps that could be in 2021.