We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. The fourth group I’ll be examining is CB, where the Falcons have had some significant turnover in 2020. Long-time starter Desmond Trufant is gone, and the team invested a first-round pick in A.J. Terrell to replace him. Can this unit improve measurably from 2019 without their best player?
Today, we take a closer look at Atlanta’s first-round pick and presumptive starter on the outside opposite Isaiah Oliver: rookie A.J. Terrell.
CB A.J. Terrell
Age: 21 (22 during 2020 season)
Contract: $2.6M cap hit in 2020 (projected), rookie contract through 2023 ($3.57M APY)
Career Production: 38 games played | 101 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 13 PD, 6 INT, 2 FF, 1 TD (College)
2019 Production: 14 games played | 34 total tackles, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 3 PD, 2 INT (College)
Previous Teams: Drafted 1st round (#16 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020)
The Falcons were in absolutely desperate need of a starting outside CB in the 2020 NFL Draft after the surprising post-June 1st cut of long-time starter Desmond Trufant. Atlanta got one at 16 overall, selecting Clemson CB A.J. Terrell as the heir apparent to Trufant. The pick surprised some at the time—Terrell was a highly-rated prospect, but most had him projected as a second-rounder. However, as time went on, it became clear that multiple NFL teams had Terrell rated as a mid-to-late first-rounder, including the Cowboys (who picked right after the Falcons) and the rival Saints.
It’s easy to see why NFL teams fell in love with Terrell. He’s got prototypical size at 6’1, 195, excellent athleticism with 4.42 speed, and extensive experience in both man and press-man coverage. Terrell is a fluid mover with very impressive college tape—although many only remember the second-half of the most recent College Football Championship, where Terrell struggled against future 1st-round WR Ja’Marr Chase. I’d encourage those people to watch the rest of his season and the first half, where Terrell actually played quite well against Chase.
Still, despite Terrell’s impressive production and obvious talent, he’s being thrust into a very early role as a starter for the Falcons. While analytics tell us that CB is one of the more reliable picks in the first round and that CBs tend to produce earlier in their careers than most other positions, depending on Terrell to be an impact starter in 2020 remains a risky proposition.
There’s a ton riding on Terrell making a quick and effective transition to the NFL, as the Falcons have nobody else to pick up the slack if he (or Isaiah Oliver) falters. Still, I like Terrell’s talent, athleticism, and am confident that he can be a solid starter for Atlanta. His selection may also intimate a switch to more man-coverage concepts under Raheem Morris, as Terrell doesn’t have a ton of experience in zone.
Projection: There will be high expectations for A.J. Terrell in 2020, but I think he’ll rise to the challenge and meet most of them. I believe Terrell will have a strong rookie season and clearly emerge as the Falcons’ CB1 by the end of the year. However, that could mean he’s merely above-average overall, as the rest of Atlanta’s CB group doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.