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Falcons draft Clemson CB A.J. Terrell in 1st round

It wasn’t the cornerback many expected, but Atlanta gets an intriguing defender at #16.

NCAA Football: College Football National Championship-Clemson Practice Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

After many months of speculation and mock drafts, the Atlanta Falcons have made their selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn managed to throw a curveball in spite of all the rumors out there and stay put, taking Clemson CB A.J. Terrell in the first round.

Terrell is a little bit of a surprising pick because the Falcons haven’t been heavily linked to him, and because his stock was a little uncertain following a strong but not flawless college career that included an up-and-down game against an admittedly excellent LSU offense. He’s an immediate starter in Atlanta, however, or he wouldn’t have gone here, and the Falcons clearly were very comfortable with landing him in the first round. It’s worth noting that analysts began linking him to the Falcons in recent days, suggesting a leak from the front office.

Terrell’s strengths are quality length, athleticism, and fluidity, as our own Eric Robinson outlined in his scouting report. He’s capable of making big plays, useful against the run, and above all a rock solid player in coverage who will provide an immediate lift to a Falcons defense hard up at cornerback. If Terrell isn’t the #1 guy in Atlanta right away, he will be before long.

Terrell isn’t a ballhawk, however, and isn’t always an enthusiastic or super effective tackler. There are times when he can be left in the dust, too, a concern for a corner joining a division stacked with top-flight wideouts like Mike Evans and D.J. Moore and top tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Michael Thomas. For some, Terrell will echo Desmond Trufant (another good-to-excellent cover corner with mixed success picking passes and making big tackles) in uncomfortable ways, but his ceiling is higher if he can iron out his flaws.

With Terrell joining a cornerback group that also includes promising players like Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver, and Jordan Miller, though, this group could come together and be very interesting in the very near future. Terrell is the classic “reach” pick here—many outlets had a second round grade on him—but if he lives up to his potential he’ll be one of the best cornerbacks in this class and a very capable starter for a team in need of them. Let’s hope he gets there, and welcome him warmly to Atlanta.

Remaining picks

  • Round 2, No. 47 overall
  • Round 3, No. 78 overall
  • Round 4, No. 119 overall
  • Round 4, No. 134 overall
  • Round 7, No. 228 overall