Despite being just nearly one month out of the 2020 NFL Draft, draft analysts have already begun preparing for next year, sending out predictions regarding top 2021 prospects. Among these select athletes, two former Heritage Patriots, cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. of the University of Alabama and Tyson Campbell of the University of Georgia, headline the list of top athletes eligible for the next draft.
Prior to each of their commitments to their respective schools, former five-star athletes Surtain Jr. and Campbell were ranked the number one and two ranked cornerback prospects, respectively, in the nation.
Two strong freshman and sophomore campaigns in the books have landed junior Surtain Jr. a spot in the top 10 for many of the mock drafts analysts have released. In Bleacher Report’s mock draft from late April, for example, Keegan Pope projects the defensive back to find a home with the New York Giants at sixth overall. Similarly, in Pro Football Network’s mock draft, Neal Driscoll expects the Washington Redskins to snag Surtain Jr. with the third overall pick.
No matter how high or low analysts have teams selecting the Alabama product, though, Surtain Jr. knows it all means nothing in the end, especially with the 2020 college football season still looming ahead.
“It will be great for the moment,” Surtain Jr. said regarding draft day, “but it would not mean anything once you step foot in the league. Right now, I’m not so focused on that; I’m just focused on the season and to control what I can control.”
As for the upcoming season, Surtain Jr., as with all athletes, has had to drastically change his preparation for his junior campaign.
“The virus particularly is something I’ve never experienced in the midst of the off-season, so a lot of preparation and time got set back, but it also helps me focus on my craft and detail for the little stuff for next season,” Surtain Jr. said.
Should the college season continue as planned, though, he hopes to make some strides in his game as he approaches what may be his final season before going pro.
“I’m looking to accomplish being an on-field leader and winning the National Championship,” Surtain Jr. said, “and also to improve on some aspects of my game that I know I can improve on.”
Likely one of the top storylines for the upcoming season, in terms of 2021 cornerbacks, will be the debate of the top cornerback prospect in the nation: widely recognized as between Surtain Jr. and Ohio State’s cornerback Shaun Wade. For Pro Football Focus, Surtain Jr., for his “tremendous polish, great hands, and elite ball skills,” edges out Wade for the top spot; for now, at least.
“My time at Alabama has helped me a lot,” Surtain Jr. said. “Alabama has set me up for greater things in the future and not only for football, but for life as well, which is very important for getting me to the next level.”
The other half of the former corner duo at Heritage, CB Tyson Campbell of the University of Georgia, also enjoyed two successful college seasons that have propelled him towards the top of many early mock drafts.
Despite having his sophomore season somewhat plagued by injury, Campbell still put together an elite resume at Georgia to warrant high projections for next year’s draft. In the same mock that had Surtain Jr. coming off the board at sixth, Pope foresees the cornerback-needy Jacksonville Jaguars scooping up Campbell at the 17th slot. Additionally, Pro Football Focus ranks Campbell as the fourth-best corner in the 2021 class, and with many teams recently moving in a cornerback-driven direction, the 6-2 Bulldog might find himself off the board in the first or second round come draft day.
Similar to Surtain Jr., though, Campbell knows that everything can change in a full season’s time.
“It doesn’t mean anything right now,” Campbell said of the many mock drafts for the 2021 NFL Draft. “It’s just a reminder that if I continue to work hard and do the right thing, then everything will fall into place.”
This off-season, Campbell has continued to do just that: work hard and improve. Specifically, however, the former five-star hopes to improve on his interception count, which, to this point, has totaled zero.
“This season, I want to just stay healthy, get a lot of interceptions, [make] plays on the field, and just help my team win a National Championship,” he said.
As both former Patriots emphasized, anything can happen this upcoming season, should the season even take place to begin with. With there being all of these unknown factors, the early mock drafts are anything but set in stone; for now, the corners will try to control what they can and focus on preparing for next year as two more Patriots move closer to reaching the NFL to join the likes of Sony Michel, Isaiah McKenzie and Brian Burns.