Falcons: Reaction to PFF’s most productive rookie class rankings

Falcons: AJ Terrell Greatness on display

The Falcons’ 2020 rookie class came in ranked 14th, according to Anthony Treash.

The 14th ranking was second in the NFC South, behind only the Buccaneers — ranked third. And rightfully so, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tristan Wirfs look like sure-fire All-Pros in their rookie year. Both will likely be in the running for their respective rookie of the year awards — offensive and defensive.

The Falcons, though, were no slouches themselves. Even if Marlon Davidson and Matt Hennessy — the Falcons’ day two picks — didn’t play all that well in 2020, they’re young and hardly carved out a definitive role by season’s end. The two rookies that made the biggest impact were first-rounder A.J. Terrell and fourth-rounder Mykal Walker.

Terrell, like any rookie cornerback, struggled at times and was exposed. According to the PFF article, the Clemson product allowed more yards in coverage — 845 — than any other outside cornerback in the NFL. They also mentioned how he came on as the year progressed, notching 16 passing stops — most among all outside cornerbacks. It seemed he really struggled when the Falcons defense was at its worst with Dan Quinn, but his play positively correlated with the unit’s play as a whole under Raheem Morris.

The biggest value has to be Mykal Walker, though. With Deion Jones and Foye Oluokon on the roster, the rookie had limited snaps — only 387 defensive snaps. But, he made the most of those opportunities, earning a 90.7 coverage grade — according to PFF. According to PFF, Walker allowed only 74 yards, forced a fumble, and had five passing stops. I have already written about how Walker will fit into Dean Pees’ defense, so check it out if you haven’t.

Walker can do anything that his new defensive coordinator needs him to. He can defend the run or pass and rush the passer from the inside or outside linebacker position. I would venture to guess that Foye and Debo will occupy the starting inside linebacker spots, which leaves Walker to play outside linebacker — where he showed well in his rookie year.

It is going to be exciting to see these rookies develop into great players. Terrell and Walker are already starting-caliber players; Davidson and Hennessy need time to develop their skills but could one day become reliable; Jaylinn Hawkins even played well his rookie year in a limited capacity. The Saints and Panthers ranked 16th and 23rd, respectively. Expect this draft to have more fireworks for the NFC South, which remains one of the toughest divisions in football.

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