Up, Down or Stay: Where should you rank Clemson CB A.J. Terrell?

NFL Draft News
A.J. Terrell

When customizing your own Fanspeak On The Clock big board, it’s important to avoid overreacting.

Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell is a good example.

Prior to Clemson’s loss to LSU in the national championship game, Terrell was seen as a fringe-first round draft choice. Analysts raved about his size, athleticism and speed.

Then LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase burned the Clemson secondary for 221 yards receiving and two touchdowns on nine receptions in the title game.

Afterward, NFL draft analyst Matt Miller of SB Nation said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior should return to school.

“Terrell started the game well, but once the LSU offense attacked him, you could sense the panic in his technique. Terrell failed to locate the ball on several key plays and was left not running hip-for-hip in man coverage on another.

“Before the game, Terrell looked like a traits guy who could enter the 2020 draft and test his way up the board some, likely being a late-first- or early-second-round selection. After Monday’s game — his only test of the season against legitimate NFL talent at wide receiver — a return to school to work on timing and technique would be the smarter move.”

Miller added that it was important not to overreact, “… but since this is the only contest evaluators can check Terrell against what looks like NFL talent, you have to put more weight on this performance.”

And how did Terrell respond?

Not only did he enter the draft, Terrell also outperformed most of the other cornerbacks who participated in the Combine. Terrell tested out in the 80th percentile in three categories, according to Mockdraftable, including height (6-foot-1, 81st percentile), 40-yard dash (4.42, 80th percentile) and broad jump (129 inches, 90th percentile).

From The Athletic’s Dane Brugler in his post-Combine mock draft:

“Although his performance in the national title game didn’t go as planned, Terrell’s combine reminded many why he is considered a first-round caliber player. Not only did he run a great 40 time (4.42), but his positional work was outstanding.”

Brugler has Kansas City drafting Terrell with the last pick of the first round in his three-round mock.

Likewise, Pro Football Focus tabs Terrell as a potential late-first, early second-rounder.

From PFF:

“At 6-foot-1 with 4.42 speed, Terrell has the combination of length and speed that you want at the cornerback position. More importantly, his movement on the field is just so smooth. Terrell put up two consecutive seasons on the Clemson defense in 2018 and 2019 with coverage grades of 80.0 or higher. Yes, LSU and Ja’Marr Chase got the better of him in the National Championship Game, but Terrell remains one of the better cornerback options in the class.”

From potential-first-rounder, to “he should return to school,” back to potential first-rounder, Terrell’s evaluation has come full-circle, as he now finds himself back to original projections as a late-first or early-second round draft pick.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2017 Clemson ACC FR CB 10 10 4 14 1.0 0.0 1 0 0.0 0 7 0 0
*2018 Clemson ACC SO CB 14 40 13 53 2.0 0.0 3 95 31.7 1 3 0 2
*2019 Clemson ACC JR CB 14 24 10 34 0.5 0.5 2 65 32.5 0 3 0 0
Career Clemson 74 27 101 3.5 0.5 6 160 26.7 1 13 0 2

Jake Rigdon (jake@sydwriting.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.

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