For much of the 21st century, the NFL has been dominated by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and other veterans. However, the lifeline of the league is based on the younger generation of stars like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, and Nick Bosa.
And lucky for the Falcons, they have a few players that can be foundational pieces. The 33rd Team released their annual list of the best 25 players around the league under the age of 25, and A.J. Terrell came in ranked 16th — one of eight players placed in the second tier, “Game-Changing Youngsters.”
A.J. Terrell, the former Clemson Tiger, broke out in 2021. With the Falcons bringing in Casey Hayward, the duo could be the best coverage tandem in the league. Terrell allowed the fourth-fewest yards in coverage this past season among all defensive backs with at least 1,000 snaps, and he was first among cornerbacks. Terrell added three interceptions and 13 pass breakups to the stat sheet on his way to a Second-Team All-Pro selection.
Tristan Wirfs, Jaire Alexander, Fred Warner, Jonathan Taylor, Rashawn Slater, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Derwin James were the other players in that tier. Those are some impressive names to be mentioned in the same conversation, and Terrell is only scratching the surface. He’s one of the younger players in this tier and ultimately took the league by storm last year.
Terrell enjoyed an impressive breakout campaign in 2021 and was predictably rewarded with All-Pro honors, even if he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. He’s become everything an organization would want in a cornerback. Not only is he excellent on the field, but Terrell also possesses the intangibles that can’t be taught. During a media session after the team’s first voluntary workout, Terrell told reporters one of his goals this year is to “be that ultimate leader on the defense.”
The trail of receivers Terrell left in his wake last season is quite impressive — holding Deebo Samuel, Jaylen Waddle, and Corey Davis to 0 yards in their respective matchups. Moreover, he only surrendered 19 yards to Michael Gallup and 24 yards to Stefon Diggs, who is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in the game.
One thing that I noticed on the list was the disrespect toward Kyle Pitts, who wasn’t included at all. Here’s the complete list:
Pitts, as a rookie, had a better season than DK Metcalf, CeeDee Lamb, and Jaylen Waddle. Pitts recorded more yards than Waddle on almost 40 fewer receptions, more yards than Metcalf, and 80-ish fewer yards than Lamb despite recording ten fewer receptions. He should certainly be in the conversation, and at the very least, above Waddle.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire