Predicting the Top 5 Rookie DB Seasons
5. Greg Newsome II CB Browns
Greg Newsome was the best zone coverage corner in the draft this year. Coming out of Northwestern, you know Newsome will be a willing tackler and a technician in his backpedal. Those are the players that coach Pat Fitzgerald builds at Northwestern. He landed with the perfect team too. Browns defensive coordinator, Joe Woods, was the 49ers defensive backs coach in 2019. The Browns run a lot of cover three, similar to what Robert Saleh does, and that fits Newsome's skill set perfectly. The biggest contingency with Newsome revolves around his health. He got injured and had to miss time on three separate occasions at Northwestern. With the Browns, he will be competing with Greedy Williams for the starting corner job next to Denzel Ward. I have high expectations for the Browns defense. In the offseason, they brought in four significant pieces: Troy Hill, Anthony Walker, Jadeveon Clowney, and John Johnson. A good defense brings out the best in all their players and I expect Newsome's level of play to rise with all the talent around him.
4. Kelvin Joseph CB Cowboys
Kelvin Joseph was my favorite corner coming out of this year's draft, but I don't think he necessarily fits the "Dan Quinn defense". I'm used to Quinn running a zone heavy, cover three defense. Look at what he did in Seattle with the Legion of Boom and in Atlanta with Desmond Trufant. I felt as if Joseph was the best man coverage corner in the draft, he reminds me a lot of Darious Williams and Xavien Howard. I am a huge fan of Joseph's game, I just felt like he didn't land in the right spot for him. A corner's best friend is the pass rush. The Cowboys have one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL, so I think the cards are really stacked against Joseph right now. If he landed in a better situation, he would have been much higher on this list, but because he's a Cowboy he is coming in at number four.
3. Asante Samuel Jr. CB Chargers
Talk about a player who landed in a great situation, Asante Samuel Jr. is now being coached by Brandon Staley and defensive coordinator, Renaldo Hill. Samuel Jr. had the highest football IQ out of any corner in this draft and he's now being coached by some of the best defensive coaches in the NFL. I expect Samuel Jr. to step in from day one and be a dog on the outside. With Derwin James returning from injury, I expect the Chargers secondary to be ferocious. I'm getting excited just writing about them. This entire team is young and promising and Samuel is going to be a breakout star. Samuel Jr. reminds me a lot of Jason Verrett who dominated when healthy with the Chargers. I expect Samuel Jr. to ball out in a similar fashion in his rookie season.
2. Jaycee Horn CB Panthers
The Panthers defense is young, ferocious, and on the rise. With Brian Burns and Haason Redick on the line and Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn in the secondary, this defense is on pace to have a major turnaround in 2021. Horn is an aggressive, man to man corner, who is going to be a dog in Phil Snow's defense. As a rookie, Horn will have to go through the gauntlet, manning up against Michael Thomas (only once due to injury), Calvin Ridley, and both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin twice a year. Horn is the type of player to embrace competition. Horn is going to bring attitude and physicality to the Panthers defense. He'll make the players around him better and he's going to have a monster rookie campaign.
1. Patrick Surtain II CB Broncos
Patrick Surtain wasn't my number one corner back coming out of the draft, but he landed in the perfect spot for him to end up being the best corner in the draft. Starting with his strengths, Surtain is a technician. His hips are fluid and his backpedal is smooth, he's a willing tackler, and he has a huge frame. Vic Fangio's defense calls for being aggressive and being able to switch between every single type of coverage. Surtain has a high football IQ and will be put in a position to succeed with Denver. He does a great job at mirroring the opposing receiver and will be in charge of containing Tyreek Hill when the Broncos play the Chiefs twice a year. I think Surtain will be the best rookie defensive back in 2021 and will be in the running for defensive rookie of the year.