Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is cornerback. Perhaps the strongest overall position on the roster, the Falcons return young star A.J. Terrell, slot starter Isaiah Oliver, and 2021 fourth-rounder Darren Hall alongside a number of veteran and UDFA additions.
First up, the star of the show: A.J. Terrell.
CB A.J. Terrell
Age: 23 (24 during 2022 season)
Contract: $3.9M cap hit in 2022, rookie contract through 2023 (fifth-year option in 2024)
Career Production: 30 games played, 30 games started | 155 total tackles, 113 solo, 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 FF | 23 PD, 4 INT
2021 Production: 16 games played, 16 games started | 81 total tackles, 52 solo, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 FF, 6.9% MTR | 16 PD, 3 INT, 50.0% completion rate allowed, 61.0 passer rating allowed | 82.6 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st Round (16th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020-present)
Thomas Dimitroff certainly had his fair share of misses in the NFL Draft, but the final first-round pick of his tenure may end up as one of his best. With the 16th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected CB A.J. Terrell. The reception was decidedly mixed, with some calling the selection a “reach” while others maintained that the NFL was much higher on Terrell than the media. A common criticism was that the Falcons made a mistake selecting Terrell over WR CeeDee Lamb, who would go to the Dallas Cowboys with the next pick.
Terrell had a solid but unspectacular rookie season, taking his lumps against some very good competition—and alongside a revolving door of secondary players around him. But his second year featured a massive jump in play that saw Terrell join the ranks of the NFL’s elite CB1s, finishing as a top-5 corner in a number of advanced metrics. His growth into a borderline star player helped a talent-deficient Falcons defense finish 18th in passing yardage allowed despite a league-low 18 sacks on the season.
Going into Year 3, A.J. Terrell will once again be relied upon as one of the impact players on a young defense. As a versatile outside corner who can thrive in both man and zone coverage, Terrell simply needs to continue playing his game and growing his knowledge and comfort in the scheme. With what looks like a drastically better supporting cast in the secondary thanks to Casey Hayward and a hopefully healthy Isaiah Oliver, there’s no reason to expect a dip in play from Atlanta’s young star.
Projection: A.J. Terrell faces sky-high expectations in his third year after putting together an elite campaign in 2021. Terrell will once again operate as the team’s shutdown CB1, and should continue to grow his knowledge of the NFL and Dean Pees’ scheme in 2022.