At this point, it's no secret that the Atlanta Falcons have something special in third-year cornerback A.J. Terrell. A scrutinized first-round pick in 2020, Terrell turned in a solid rookie year followed by an outstanding second season that resulted in him being named AP All-Pro second team.
Just how highly regarded is the 23-year-old Atlanta native? PFF recently ranked Terrell as the fourth-best defensive player under the age of 25.
Not only does Terrell rank in the top five of overall defensive players, but he's also the top-rated cornerback and highest-ranked player from his draft class.
Terrell is expected to take another step forward in his third season as a pro, as the Falcons signed veteran corner Casey Hayward to join him in the secondary. Further, Atlanta added pass rushers Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebiketie, and DeAngelo Malone throughout the offseason.
As a result, Terrell should have to cover for a shorter period of time, while also having a running mate on the other side who can blanket receivers. Terrell said he's excited to learn from Hayward, a former Pro Bowl cornerback with immense experience playing in defensive coordinator Dean Pees' style defense during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
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"The knowledge and everything he has on me being a young player and being able to get under his wings and ask questions,” Terrell said. “I’ll know about little things going into games. I mean, just being able to pick his brain and then also just being able to vibe with him outside of football.”
The feeling is mutual according to Hayward.
“It’s kind of dope,” Hayward said. “Besides me being in Green Bay, I don’t think I’ve ever had a running mate on the other side as talented as A.J. When I was with the Chargers, we had Jason Verrett, and he was probably one of the most talented guys I’ve ever been around.
"I’ve played with a lot of pretty good guys, but not as talented as A.J. is. The guy is super talented.”
Not only is Terrell extremely talented, but he's also highly skilled and still quite young. With Terrell not turning 25 until September 2023, it's a safe bet to assume he'll be on this list once again next year.