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Tabeek: Why Terrell is more than a last impression

A.J. Terrell's performance in the national title game was forgettable, but there's plenty more to like


One of the first questions I was asked after the Atlanta Falcons selected A.J. Terrell out of Clemson in the first round was, "What do you think of the pick?"

I said that I liked the pick a lot, 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.

But as soon as I responded, I knew what was coming. The LSU game.


There's a lot to like about the 6-foot-1, 195-pound corner who clocked a 4.37 in the 40, but a lot of people are apparently hung up on the last time they watched Terrell play – which was a very forgettable performance against LSU in the national championship back on Jan. 14.

And I get it. First and last impressions tend to stick with us.

I mean, If you need proof of that, just look at what JaMarcus Russell’s last game in the 2007 Sugar Bowl did for him. It made the former LSU Tiger the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. And we all know how that story ended.

So, let's talk about Terrell, and that LSU game. I won't rehash the entire game, but Terrell was beaten quite a bit by LSU's Ja'Marr Chase.

In the first half alone, Chase has six catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. The LSU wideout had a pair of 50-yard catches, including a 52-yard touchdown. The other one – a 56-yard reception – set up a short touchdown run by Joe Burrow. Chase finished with nine catches for 221 yards.

And then there was that missed tackle of Clyde Edwards-Helaire late in the second quarter, which resulted in a 20-yard gain. It was a nightmare of first half for Terrell, no question about it.

But you'd be wise to look at Terrell's entire body of work before casting judgment on the 21-year-old who once starred at Westlake High School in Atlanta.

There's a reason why Terrell is a first-round pick. Physically, he has all of the tools. On the field, most scouts agree that Terrell plays with solid technique, transitions well in coverage and has demonstrated he can make plays downfield.

Dabo Swinney, his coach at Clemson, called Terrell “the Deshaun Watson of this group” of cornerbacks.

As I noted in a previous story about Terrell, he's not much of a gambler but has six career interceptions, including a memorable 44-yard pick-six against Tua Tagovailoa in the 2019 national championship.

Terrell knows how to make plays, and is one of the best cornerbacks in this class. I projected him going in the first-round of my final mock draft.

In case you missed it, the Falcons are going to face Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater a minimum of six times in 2020. And those guys will be throwing to the likes of Michael Thomas, Emanuel Sanders, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey and some guy named Gronk.

Holy offense, Batman.

Look, we don't know how good the former Clemson star will eventually be on the next level, but as Will McFadden of recently noted, Terrell brings confidence, athleticism of a top-tier corner to the Falcons.

And that's something the Falcons desperately need, especially in the star-studded and pass-happy NFC South.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of first impression Terrell makes on Falcons fans come September.

Apr-15-2019 15-25-49

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