After weeks of speculation about the Falcons being movers and shakers on draft day, the Falcons ended up standing pat at No. 16 and selecting cornerback A.J. Terrell out of Clemson. We obviously have opinions about the pick, and we hope you’ll weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.
I wasn’t blown away with excitement over the pick at first, but it didn’t take long for it to grow on me. With Desmond Trufant gone, cornerback is a real position of need. Yes, the pass rush has sucked for what feels like infinity, but the Falcons won’t be able to generate pressure on anyone if they don’t have a stout defensive backfield.
The Cowboys should definitely in the market for a CB this year, and it sounds like Jerry Jones was being pretty sneaky to make sure he could snag CeeDee Lamb. The Raiders definitely reached for Damon Arnette out of The Ohio State University (and you know I’m a homer, so if I say it was a reach, it was a reach) at No. 19, and it shows that the Falcons likely knew Terrell wouldn’t get past Las Vegas. They had to make a move at No. 16 after being unable to trade up for C.J. Henderson. Overall, I like this choice fine. It fills a need, so I can’t complain about that.
I’d like to see the Falcons go for an edge rusher on Day 2. Linebacker and interior offensive line should also be priorities over the next two days.
In hindsight, a sensible move
It’s incredibly hard to predict how an entire round of the NFL draft will play out, but now that the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is over, I think the Falcons made a sensible move, even if it wasn’t particularly splashy. Whether or not A.J. Terrell turns into a great corner is one question, but Atlanta got ahead of the surprising run on cornerbacks that happened right after they took him. While many fans were saying we should have waited for the second round, the reality is that had Atlanta done that, they likely would have gotten the 6th or 8th best player at the position (according to their boards, not some random board on the internet). For what it’s worth, I think Terrell will be a good player.
Now, multiple defensive line prospects have slipped into the second round, where Atlanta can potentially make some inexpensive trades to grab the one they want. All things considered, this has played out pretty well in their favor. Don’t be surprised to see the Falcons trade up 6 to 10 spots to grab a defensive line or linebacker prospect. If they could grab A.J. Epenesa (let’s make this an all AJ draft class), I’d be ecstatic. - David Walker
Fun with fundamentals
Atlanta made a bunch of calls to check on the price of a move up and the NFL media went into overdrive, reporting out each one as if it were a serious trade talk. In the end, Thomas Dimitroff insisted those were just inquiries and not offers across the board, and that Atlanta sat back and got the guy the team wanted all along. Of course, he said that last year too with Chris Lindstrom, only for reports to suggest later that the Falcons pursued a move up harder than they cared to admit.
In both cases, regardless of whether everything went perfectly to plan or not, the team got the kind of player they needed. A.J. Terrell is a strong fit for this Atlanta defense and a capable cornerback joining a young, intriguing group, with none of the trio of Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, and Kendall Sheffield hitting free agency until the 2022 offseason. There’s little question that Terrell has the talent to be a very capable #1 cornerback in this defense, and given that C.J. Henderson and Javon Kinlaw were already gone,
Now, if you consider the larger context of the offseason, was it a brilliant move to cut ties with the team’s top cornerback and essentially force the Falcons to pick his replacement at #16, especially because rookie corners don’t always shine in that first season? No, and I have not in any way changed my outlook that this team has a lot of work left to do. This was, at the very least, a sensible, fundamentally sound first pick, and I’ll take that.
Next? I’d like to see the Falcons try to address their outstanding needs at linebacker, along the defensive line, and at center, and there are prospects worth selecting at every one of those positions on the second day. Assuming they stay patient and committed to addressing needs, they’re in good shape for day 2. - Dave Choate
Patience may pay off in long haul
After more than a week of rumors about the Falcons circling a blockbuster trade, watching the team stay put at Pick 16 and take Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell felt almost poetic.
Don’t breathe in draft smoke; it’s bad for your health. Visions of the Falcons sending the farm for an elite prospect have been replaced with the team taking a largely-promising, plug-and-play defensive back. We’ll get the obvious out of the way: drafting a player like Terrell may feel like a cold bucket of water to the face after months of fanning the flame for a defensive lineman (yet again) or a more highly-touted cornerback.
But so were first-round picks Keanu Neal, who played at a high level before injuries stalled his career, and Calvin Ridley, who looks to be emerging as a top receiver. Chris Lindstrom has a ton of promise, too. Terrell has the potential and drive to be a really good cornerback, and should start out his career as a competent and growing one, like Desmond Trufant, the guy he’s replacing.
That patience gives them four picks in the next two rounds, with opportunity to pick up more in a trade-back. Perhaps that’s been the best approach all along; fill out this roster in a deep draft class and see if that keeps the 6-2 2019 Falcons finishers intact for the fall.
I was admittedly bummed to see the team pass on LSU LB K’Lavon Chaisson, so I do hope pass rush gets addressed tonight, either with an edge or tackle. But linebacker feels likely, as does guard/center-for-the-future. Don’t rule out a running back, either. - Cory Woodroof
Terrell was a sensible pick at a position of need, and the Falcons did not lose valuable draft capital to get him. While he has his issues, so did every corner after Jeff Okudah, and things were not getting any better in later rounds. Like others, it was disappointing to see the team pass on other interesting yet risky players like Chaisson or being just short on defenders like Isaiah Simmons and Javon Kinlaw. Fine, sensible, yet unexciting. - Matt Chambers
It’s not exciting but it doesn’t need to be
The Falcons filled arguably their most pressing need on defense with a very talented player who looks to be an ideal fit in Dan Quinn’s scheme, and they didn’t sacrifice any extra draft capital to do so.
A.J. Terrell and Isaiah Oliver are two corners with all of the measurables now manning the outside, with speed demon Kendall Sheffield covering the slot. The ingredients for the recipe are there for Atlanta to have a formidable cornerback group, now they just have to be put together.
Would I have rather seen the team get Kinlaw? Of course, but he wasn’t there at pick 16, and it looks like nobody in the top 10 was looking to trade back. Dan Quinn always throws the fanbase and media members a curveball in the first round (Keanu, Ridley, Lindstrom, McGary) so a surprising selection is the least surprising part in all of this.
Moving forward, I think the team will continue addressing defense on day two - there is still a pressing need at linebacker and along the defensive line, and some very talented players are left on the board. With Quinn’s positive track record of uncovering day three gems as well (Damontae Kazee, Grady Jarrett, Foye Oluokun, Sheffield, De’Vondre Campbell, Russell Gage) I’m confident that Atlanta will come away from this draft with 3+ starters. - Adnan Ikic
Good, not great
A.J. Terrell is a fine CB, and his stock was steadily rising over the past few weeks. We’d heard buzz that the Raiders and even the Cowboys may have been interested in taking him in the first round, just a few picks later than the Falcons. Atlanta may have had an offer to trade down with Philadelphia—which would probably have been my preferred move, considering they could’ve still gotten Jeff Gladney or Jaylon Johnson there—but didn’t take it. But they also didn’t trade up, which means Atlanta holds on to those vital Day 2 picks. That’s probably the biggest takeaway from the first round.
I like Terrell quite a bit. I’ve mocked him to the Falcons several times in the second round—in my first mock of the offseason, and then again in my post-free agency mock. He makes a lot of sense for the Falcons and fits the mold of a Dan Quinn outside CB: athleticism, size, and attitude. Terrell is a lot more comfortable in man coverage right now—which Raheem Morris began to utilize more towards the end of the 2019 season—but he’s got the footwork and change-of-direction skills to survive in zone, too. He’ll probably take a little more time to acclimate to the NFL than someone like Jaylon Johnson, but he’s got a higher ceiling from a size and athleticism perspective.
On Day 2, the Falcons need to address DT. I’m holding out hope that someone like Ross Blacklock or Justin Madubuike falls to 47, as both would be perfect fits long-term next to Grady Jarrett. Neither has the ridiculous All Pro ceiling of Javon Kinlaw (RIP the dream), but both are strong interior pass rushers who can absolutely help Atlanta’s defense. I do believe the team is hoping for Temple C/G Matt Hennessy to fall to 47, so I’d keep an eye on him tonight. In the third round, I suspect LB or S will be the target. Logan Wilson is a favorite of mine, but guys like Akeem Davis-Gaither and Willie Gay Jr. could also be fits. - Kevin Knight