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2020 NFL Draft prospect profile: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

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Could A.J. Terrell’s versatility be an asset for the Giants?

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Despite investing heavily in their secondary, the New York Giants still need much better play from their defensive backs. They ranked in the bottom third against the pass in 2019 and were among the very worst in the NFL in giving up big plays.

Clemson’s A.J. Terrell is an athletic and versatile corner who could potentially slip to the second day of the draft and play multiple roles in the Giants’ defense. But how likely is it that he will slip out of the first round after an eye-opening performance at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine?

Prospect: A.J. Terrell Jr. (CB, Clemson)
Games Watched: vs. Duke (2018), vs. Syracuse (2019), vs. Ohio State (2019)
Red Flags: none

Measurables

Stats

Games played: 38
Tackles: 101
Tackles for a loss: 3.5
Sacks: 0.5
Forced fumbles: 2
Interceptions: 6

2019 Stats

Games played: 14
Tackles: 34
Tackles for a loss: 0.5
Sacks: 0
Forced fumbles: 0
Interceptions: 2

Quick Summary

Best: Athleticism, fluidity, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Length, generating turnovers
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme and positional flexibility.

Game Tape

Full Report

Clemson’s A.J. Terrell combines good height, weight, and speed with excellent lower body fluidity, flexibility, and quickness. Terrell is capable of playing in both man and zone concepts, as well as lining up in the slot and playing effectively. His size and speed allow him to keep up with athletic receivers on vertical routes while his fluidity, agility, and quickness allow him to easily stay in phase with receivers on quick-breaking routes. Terrell shows a good understanding of field position when in coverage. He does a good job of taking the inside position when in man coverage on the outside and pressing receivers toward the sideline, using it as an extra defender to constrict receiving windows.

Terrell wastes little motion getting into his area of responsibility when in zone coverage. Once there, he is disciplined in taking on and passing off receivers who are moving through his zone. He generally keeps his eyes in the backfield and is able to use his quickness to make plays on the ball if quarterbacks throw into his zone.

He shows great competitive toughness in his run defense, at times taking on an offensive tackle to set the edge (vs. Syracuse, 2019). Terrell is a very willing hitter, and doesn’t waste time coming downhill to hit the ball carrier.

Terrell’s lack of arm length could be an issue for some teams if they — like the Seattle Seahawks — have strict minimum thresholds. Terrell’s lack of length shows up when trying to high-point the ball, and receivers with big catch radii can catch the ball over him. He also doesn’t generate many turnovers, with just six interceptions and 13 passes defensed in three seasons. Finally, Terrell is also an inconsistent tackler. While he is a willing hitter, he needs to be much more consistent in his angles and form — particularly with wrapping up the ball carrier.

Overall Grade: 6.4 - Has the traits to become a starter early in his career, and should be an immediate contributor right away for any team that drafts him. An early Day 2 value. [Grading Scale]

Projection

A.J. Terrell projects as a starting cornerback at the NFL level. He was used as a boundry, field, and slot corner, and in both man and zone concepts in Clemson’s defensive scheme. All of that suggests significant schematic versatility to play in a variety of defenses. Terrell has impressive fluidity and quickness for a taller corner, which is complemented by impressive long speed. Terrell has the feet and hips to keep up with shifty route runners as well as the raw speed to run with most “speedster” receivers. Those quick feet and fluid hips also allow him to play the slot and keep up with smaller, quicker receivers over the middle.

Terrell is at his best in man coverage, where he can use his feet and hips to stay in tight coverage most receivers. He is an easy mover in coverage who can flip his hips and run with receivers at a moment’s notice. Terrell is also able to play in zone coverage, using his quickness to close the door on passes into his zone. However, he does occasionally lose track of what is happening underneath him.

Terrell has relatively short arms, and that can come into play when playing the ball. He is a tall corner, but receivers can high-point the ball over him due to a relative lack of length, and that could also play into his lack of turnovers.

All told, Terrell is a well-rounded corner who will likely never be a No. 1 “shut down” corner, but has the traits to be a reliable piece for almost any defense and can play where he is needed.