When it came to Atlanta Falcons players being in the spotlight this past season, perhaps no light was brighter than the one focused on rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell.
The Falcons used the 16th overall pick on the former Clemson standout in last April's NFL Draft and right away there was both praise and criticism of the selection. Some national writers dished out low grades, calling the pick a "desperation" and a "need pick."
I'm on the record for liking the pick and wrote soon after the Falcons took him that "Terrell addresses one of the Falcons' biggest needs and the first team All-ACC selection has a knack for making plays – something Atlanta's defense could certainly use."
Still, many pointed to the last time they'd watched Terrell play – which was a very forgettable performance against LSU in the national championship back on Jan. 14., 2020. And I get it. First and last impressions tend to stick with us.
But from the moment the Falcons training camp kicked off in August and throughout an up-and-down season for the Falcons, Terrell's play on the field has stood out – for all of the right reasons.
While Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson drew almost all of the pre-draft attention when it came to the highest-rated prospects entering the draft, Terrell has performed better than both. In case you forgot, Okudah was taken by the Detroit Lions with the third overall pick and Henderson was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 9 pick.
And now that the regular season is over, many outlets are putting together all-rookie teams. CBS Sports has been running NFL Rookie Power Rankings all season long and put its end-of-season list out. Terrell is the only rookie cornerback on it. Terrell finished 13th overall.
"A.J. Terrell has had a really good year for Atlanta," writes Josh Edwards of CBS Sports. "His progress seemed to coincide with Raheem Morris' elevation to the interim head coaching position."
CBS Sports NFL Rookie Power Rankings
|1||QB Justin Herbert||Los Angeles Chargers|
|2||WR Justin Jefferson||Minnesota Vikings|
|3||OT Tristan Wirfs||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|4||OT Mike Onwenu||New England Patriots|
|5||DE Chase Young||Washington Football Team|
|6||OLB Jeremy Chinn||Carolina Panthers|
|7||SS Antoine Winfield Jr.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|8||FS Julian Blackmon||Indianapolis Colts|
|9||OT Mekhi Becton||New York Jets|
|10||RB James Robinson||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|11||RB Jonathan Taylor||Indianapolis Colts|
|12||WR CeeDee Lamb||Dallas Cowboys|
|13||CB A.J. Terrell||Atlanta Falcons|
|14||WR Tee Higgins||Cincinnati Bengals|
|15||OT Jedrick Wills||Cleveland Browns|