Trust in this Falcons regime comes at a premium these days. That’s the natural result of two straight 7-9 seasons, one of which came with a bizarre guard-signing spree and cut/re-signing of Matt Bryant that the team insisted was part of the plan all along. Atlanta’s bad habit of yelling that everything is going according to plan even when the house is burning down has certainly dented the fanbase’s willingness to take their words at face value, and with good reason.
That being said, in the case of A.J. Terrell they are transparently being honest about their desire to get the Clemson cornerback in the first round. The reported interest in moving for C.J. Henderson didn’t come to much, as we now know, and there are signals around the league that the Falcons knew exactly who would be there at #16 and exactly how much they wanted to draft him.
Start with, of all people, Sean Payton.
I know a lot of people have panned the Falcons' selection of A.J. Terrell, but Sean Payton said Thursday night that he was one of the players they were eyeing as a trade-up candidate in Round 1. Saints clearly had a high grade on the Clemson cornerback.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) April 24, 2020
This is in addition to the very persistent rumors that the Raiders were interested in Terrell and would’ve scooped him with their second 1st round selection, had they had the opportunity. We were warned heading into this draft that teams had higher grades on some players than the draftnik community, and there’s mounting evidence Terrell was one of them. Had Atlanta not scooped him up at #16, they wouldn’t have had a chance to do so at #47. It’s not clear they could’ve even gotten back as far as the early 20s without lsoing him.
Then there’s the evidence from the Falcons side. Had the Falcons not been locked into Terrell, they might’ve found an offer to trade down a few spots with the Eagles enticing, given how clearly desperate Philadelphia was to get ahead of the Cowboys for CeeDee Lamb. Atlanta didn’t budge.
Jerry Jones said opinion around the NFL that WR was not a priority for the #Cowboys prevented other teams interested in Cee Dee Lamb from trading in front of Dallas. A division rival tried. Failing to trade with Falcons at 16 for Lamb, the #Eagles took WR Jalen Reagor at 21.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) April 24, 2020
The most overblown criticism of this front office—especially considering all the legitimate criticisms of this front office—is that they reach for players who would be available picks or even rounds later. Last year, Chris Lindstrom was a Vikings target, and Keanu Neal almost certainly would not have made it to Atlanta in the 2nd round a few years back. We spend so much time reading mock drafts and listening to where analysts think these players should go that we forget NFL teams can have an entirely different idea, and in the case of Terrell, the Falcons could either grab him at #16 or risk losing him to the Raiders, Saints, and potentially other teams.
Again, that’s not to say you have to love this pick, but the Falcons sure did. They got their man.