How Clemson's A.J. Terrell can improve the cornerback position for the Kansas City Chiefs
By the numbers:
6’1”, 195 pounds. 4.42 40-yard dash. 31-¼” arms. 34.5-inch vertical jump.
34 tackles, two interceptions, three passes broken up in 2019.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has coached some pretty good cornerbacks in his time, and A.J. Terrell ranks among the best. With a fluid, smart game that shined at the collegiate level, Terrell stood out in back-to-back years. He’s a lengthy corner and is at his best when he can get physical with opposing wide receivers and jolt them at the line of scrimmage.
Terrell is an above-average athlete, capable of keeping up with most receivers step-for-step. Hip fluidity is one of his greatest strengths, which will come in handy as he transitions to the NFL. He reads quarterbacks’ eyes and anticipates their next moves, something that isn’t all too common for college corners.
On the biggest stage of them all, the 2019-20 National Championship Game, Terrell had a rough night. That was a dark spot in what was otherwise a good season, but it left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Can Terrell hang with the game’s best players? His performance vs. LSU brought that into question.
While Terrell doesn’t have any glaring holes in his game, he has quite a few things he needs to work on if he wants to be more than solid at the next level. First and foremost, despite being a willing tackler, his form is very arm-heavy and isn’t fundamentally sound. Speaking of arm-heavy, Terrell can also get grabby down the field when things aren’t going his way. That needs to be cleaned up in order to avoid potential pass interference penalties being called against him moving forward.
This isn’t necessarily a weakness, but it’s a ceiling-capper: Terrell’s ball skills are merely average. He picked off six passes in three years at Clemson, which is good, but many of them were simply poor throws by opposing quarterbacks. His ballhawking prowess leaves something to be desired.
How Terrell fits with the Chiefs:
Terrell doesn’t quite have the potential of the prospects ranked ahead of him, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo doesn’t need a bonafide superstar. He needs someone lengthy with good instincts and a willingness to play a physical brand of football. Terrell could step in immediately and provide that as a press or off-man cornerback.
The jury is out on Terrell’s draft stock. Some mocks have him nudging his way into the end of the first round, while others peg as a second-rounder. (SI.com’s most recent mock has him going 38 to the Carolina Panthers.) He may not be a sexy pick at 32, but depending on what the draft board looks like when the Chiefs are on the clock, taking a flyer on a cornerback that projects to be a starter would help bolster the secondary nonetheless.
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