ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was once asked what the best thing was about getting it right with a first-round pick. He barely let the last syllable of the question get out into the world before he gave his answer.
"The best thing? The best thing is when the guy comes in exactly as advertised," he said. "The best thing is when what you saw is who you got."
Two of the highest-profile rookies -- Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons -- play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) and will most likely show they are exactly as advertised, and perhaps more.
Surtain, who the Broncos selected No. 9 in last April's draft, has started seven of the Broncos' eight games, has played every defensive snap in four of those games and his seven passes defensed are already the sixth-most by a rookie in team history.
Parsons, who the Cowboys selected at No. 12, has started every game and was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week after an 11 tackle, four for loss, performance in Dallas' win over the Minnesota Vikings.
"Pat -- I've been really impressed," Broncos general manager George Paton said this week. "He's a pro. He keeps getting better every week. I think he's going to be one of the better corners in the league. I haven't wavered off that. ... For a rookie he doesn't get frazzled, that's what I like about him."
"An impact player," Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of Parsons. "He fits in great with our defensive philosophy and how we want to play defense."
Their early success is no surprise to the league's talent evaluators. Surtain arrived to the draft process with all of the physical traits (size, speed and agility) scouts covet at cornerback. He also has a strong mental makeup as the son of a former NFL cornerback and who learned from Alabama'a Nick Saban, who still coaches the Crimson Tide's defensive backs in practice each day.
Parsons, too, had rare 4.40 speed in the 40-yard dash at 246 pounds. He has the strength to overpower offensive lineman and the athleticism and awareness to first diagnose, then chase down plays. His versatility has already been plainly evident, as the Cowboys have used him at both linebacker and defensive end.
Versatility, McCarthy said, was a big reason the Cowboys were happy to see his name still on the board when their pick approached.
"Absolutely," McCarthy said. "I think everybody [did], just based on where we had him ranked on the board, we had him ranked as the top defensive player in the draft."
Both players were available last April as the Broncos prepared to make their first selection. Both had been scouted thoroughly, with the plenty of due diligence. But Paton had tipped his hand in the weeks before the draft in how he would prioritize things in his first year as a general manager. Paton spent plenty in free agency on defensive backs -- he re-signed safety Justin Simmons to a $61 million contract and signed cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller.
Paton, as well as coach Vic Fangio, have kept to the can-never-have-enough-corners approach and Paton described his fervor in shoring up that part of the depth chart based on his belief "that it's a space and cover league."
"And Pat's been great ... he has that humble confidence," Simmons said. "He's not afraid of the big moment, no matter who he's going up against. Obviously, I think that's showing in his play ... he's a difference-maker while he's out there playing man coverage and doing the things that he does."
Both Surtain and Parsons figure to be a big part of their defenses for years to come. Just days before linebacker Von Miller was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, one of the things he listed as a reason he wanted to "be part of the solution" for the Broncos' current playoff drought was Surtain.
As Miller said: "You want to be a part of his career as he blossoms and does amazing things."