The Atlanta Falcons’ roster has experienced quite a bit of turnover the last few years, with the trades of stars such as quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones just being the tip of the iceberg.
As a result, the team will be looking for young pieces to help lead them into the next generation; there’s no better place to start than in the first round of the NFL draft.
For the Falcons, the past two drafts (excluding 2022) have been successes in that regard, with cornerback A.J. Terrell (2020) and tight end Kyle Pitts (2021) being named two of the top 25 players under the age of 25, per PFF.
Terrell led the way for Atlanta, ranking 9th. PFF has nothing but good things to say about the AP All-Pro second team candidate.
”Terrell earned the highest coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL last season (90.1). He allowed just 29 catches for 200 yards all year and surrendered a league-low 47.5 passer rating into his coverage," PFF wrote.
Terrell, 23, had 81 combined tackles, 16 passes defended, and three interceptions in his second season in the league. He’s started all 30 of the games he’s appeared in thus far.
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Terrell should only get better in 2022, as the Falcons improved the situation at corner on the opposite side of the field by adding two-time Pro Bowler Casey Hayward, and took several measures to improve the pass rush, such as the selections of Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone in the draft.
Pitts, 21, ranked 24th on the list after becoming just the second rookie tight end of all time to post 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season. He was also one of six rookies to be selected for the Pro Bowl.
PFF didn’t reserve praise for Pitts.
“It felt like Pitts’ rookie season wasn’t talked about nearly enough. He recorded 1,026 receiving yards on 68 catches from 110 targets, and it’s as if no one was impressed."
Despite his lack of end zone success, Pitts is still seen as one of the game's rising stars.
As Atlanta looks to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, Terrell and Pitts will be relied upon to lead the franchise into its new era. If their 2021 seasons are any indication, the franchise is in good hands.