Barring any sort of rescheduling, we are officially within one month of the NFL Draft, an event sure to dominate the sporting news world as active competition is currently unavailable to watch. Free agency is in the books, and we have an even better idea of what the Falcons’ needs look like heading into this likely electronic-based NFL Draft.
It is abundantly clear that cornerback will be Atlanta’s most glaring need to address early on. After moving on from Desmond Trufant, Atlanta has one of the weakest corner groups in the entire NFL, and we are talking about a division that now has Tom Brady paired with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Saints who added Emmanuel Sanders to their receiving core, and Carolina bringing in Robby Anderson to pair with D.J Moore. Atlanta has been able to fill a ton of holes, but if this group is not significantly improved by Week 1, it may all be for nothing.
With limited cap space, they will likely attempt to patch this secondary up with a low-cost veteran and a high draft selection. The good news is that the 2020 class features a formidable group of corners.
One that could be on the Falcons’ radar in the Round 2 territory is Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell.
Terrell, an Atlanta native, burst on to the scene for Clemson in the 2019 National Championship against Alabama when he returned an interception for a touchdown. He had appeared in 24 games for the Tigers up to this point, but this play put him on the map on a national level.
Unfortunately for Terrell, his second National Championship appearance was not as fruitful. He struggled against one of the best offenses college football has ever seen and was exposed by LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
However, it is all about context. Though Clemson plays the majority of their games against lesser competition, it is unfair to grade Terrell on one single game. Over his college career, he was fantastic in man coverage and is universally seen as a top 50 selection. If the Falcons go another direction in the first round, he is a prime candidate for a homecoming.
Terrell is a former five-star recruit who displayed his athleticism and size at the combine, running a 4.42 40-yard dash. He plays very tight in coverage, showing flexibility and smooth running ability, though he can get a bit handsy at times. He was named first-team All-ACC this past season and has a future as a starter at the next level.
The primary thing Terrell will have to work on in the NFL is perfecting his tackling, but there are few questions about his coverage ability, and he has proven to be a versatile piece in college. Though he is known for the big-time play against Alabama that set the tone for a beatdown, he is not viewed as a ballhawk, which is likely why he is not a lock for the first round. Terrell should be an effective press-man corner at the next level, but he is far from the sexiest pick. I think he will be a starter in the NFL for a long time, but I am not sure he will be a star.
If I am Atlanta, I am going cornerback in the first round with the way the roster has shaken out, and taking a second-tier pass rusher such as Josh Uche, Bradlee Anae, or Jonathan Greenard in Round 2. However, if they do go another route, Terrell seems like a safe pick at corner. Whether or not he will be ready to contribute as a rookie is another question.