As per usual, all the smoke cleared on draft night, and the Falcons selected someone off everyone’s radar — A.J. Terrell, a cornerback out of Clemson.
I’ll admit, my first reaction was probably a lot like yours… What the hell. Not because I’m an A.J Terrell hater, but because I thought the Falcons probably could have traded back to snag him. However, when you’re a GM, and you found your guy, you don’t take any risks. And the Falcons apparently found their guy.
Terrell was a four-star recruit in 2017, and like so many top tier high school athletes these days, he joined Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. He appeared in ten games as a freshman, defending seven passes before becoming a full-time starter in 2018. That year, he made a name for himself on the biggest stage, returning an interception for a touchdown against Alabama in the National Championship — one of three interceptions he had that season. With his name on the radar of people everywhere, Terrell didn’t disappoint in 2019, earning First Team All-ACC honors, as his Clemson Tigers once again ran the table on their way to the National Championship game against LSU, where they weren’t so lucky this time around.
The Tigers from Lousianna — as they did to everybody — ran up the score on their way to a perfect season, and Terrell was a target all night. He was abused by Ja’Marr Chase (as was everybody) and showed his weaknesses against the run. However, one game shouldn’t paint the picture for an NFL prospect, and Terrell will fit rather well in Atlanta.
The 6’1″, 195-pound corner is as polished of a prospect at his positon not named Jeff Okudah. With a fluid and loose style, he mirrors receivers excellently. That, paired with his length and speed (he ran a 4.42 at the NFL Combine), makes him a perfect fit for the zone scheme that Dan Quinn runs. Terrell should be able to start from the jump, filling in for Desmond Trufant, who was cut earlier in the offseason.
When it comes to weaknesses, there are a few. Terrell can be a bit handsy, resulting in penalties, and he isn’t the best option when forced to play press-man coverage. This can be attributed to his frame, which is thin. As a result, he’s also not the best tackler, even though he is willing. He has to bulk up over his NFL career to reach his full potential
While it is far from the sexiest pick on the board, Terrell fills the Falcons’ most significant need. After Okudah, there wasn’t a clear #2 corner in this draft. It was all up in the air, and Quinn and Dimitroff felt they landed their guy. The only reserve I have about this selection is whether the Falcons could have traded back and picked up more picks. However, if Terrell was sitting atop their draft board, and they didn’t feel like anybody else in the first round could compare, they made the correct choice by not risking it. Dimitroff is on his last chance as a GM, so you have to appreciate him ignoring the outside noise and trusting his gut. Time will tell if it was the right decision.