The Falcons are in the midst of attempting to stack draft classes to build a solid foundation. Simultaneously, the new regime is cleaning the books of the former regime’s grotesque contracts, but they did inherit a couple of worthwhile pieces. Chris Lindstrom and AJ Terrell, in particular, are two young players that a team can build around. However, two drafts into the tenures of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith, and they have drafted foundational pieces of their own.
Pro Football Focus put out their annual top-25 players under 25, and a pair of Falcons — one from each regime — made the cut this year.
9. CB A.J. TERRELL, ATLANTA FALCONS
Terrell earned the highest coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL last season (90.1). He allowed just 29 catches for 200 yards all year and surrendered a league-low 47.5 passer rating into his coverage. His massive leap in production in just his second NFL season at such a difficult position moves him into the top 10 of this list.
It’s no surprise Terrell is in the same conversation as Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Micah Parsons, Justin Herbert, and Nick Bosa. The Falcons have one of the best young corners in the league, actually one of best corners in football. Terrell is ascending into elite company, and as PFF notes, he allowed a league-low 47.5 passer rating when opposing quarterbacks targeted him in coverage.
The next member of the team on the list shouldn’t surprise anyone either.
24. TE KYLE PITTS, ATLANTA FALCONS
It felt like Pitts’ rookie season wasn’t talked about nearly enough. He recorded 1,026 receiving yards on 68 catches from 110 targets, and it’s as if no one was impressed. His lack of touchdowns (just one on the year) probably played a part, but he was one of only two rookie tight ends in NFL history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. No more Matt Ryan in Atlanta might get in the way of some inevitable monster stats from Pitts early on in his NFL career, but this is still one of the best young players at any position.
Atlanta made Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in league history after selecting him fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he’s already one of the best tight ends in the league.
Pitts became the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards; he’s also Atlanta’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, a title previously held by Julio Jones for a decade. Pitts passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end and was rewarded with a spot in the Pro Bowl — the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.
Pitts also finished the season just shy of Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving record for tight ends, which Ditka set in 1961 after totaling 1,076 yards. Despite coming up short of Ditka’s record, Pitts had a sensational season.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire