3 Panthers targets in 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Alabama football (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Alabama football (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Carolina Panthers mock draft, Patrick Surtain
TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – SEPTEMBER 07: Patrick Surtain II #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide intercepts this reception intended for Tony Nicholson #13 of the New Mexico State Aggies in the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Cornerback. Crimson Tide . Patrick Surtain. 8. player. 829.

There’s an easy argument to be made that Carolina’s biggest need heading into the offseason is to find a No. 1 cornerback. Donte Jackson served in that role during the 2020 season, but he lacks the size to match-up with No. 1 wide receivers on a weekly basis.

The team claimed Rasul Douglas on waivers just before the start of the season and he managed to secure a starting role on the other side of the formation. Even if he’s retained in free agency, the Panthers need to add a superior option to lessen the burden on both Jackson and Douglas.

Fortunately for Carolina, there is an elite cornerback prospect in this year’s class. Surtain operated as a shutdown corner for Nick Saban at Alabama this season. He was so good in coverage that opposing coaches openly admitted they didn’t want to throw the ball to his side of the field. That limited Surtain to just one interception on the year, but that’s not an indictment on his coverage ability or ball skills.

Surtain may not flash the elite 40-yard dash time that some scouts require at the cornerback position, but his tape shows that he has every tool necessary to succeed at the next level. He shows an effortless ability to stay with receivers on short and intermediate routes. Surtain’s ability to break on the ball at the top of routes is unmatched at the collegiate level.

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The sum total of Surtain’s skills makes him an easy choice to start right away for a defense that’s in desperate need of cornerback help. The Panthers should celebrate if he’s still on the board at No. 8.