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ATL News / Sports

Falcons: Advanced metrics say AJ Terrell is the best cornerback in the NFL

The Falcons have very few superstar-caliber players on the roster. On offense, Kyle Pitts is probably the only elite player; on defense, the star is AJ Terrell. And the advanced statistics back it up.

Here are the parameters used when determining the list:

Now, here are some important notes about the parameters I used to separate the best coverage defenders from the rest. In order to qualify, players needed a minimum of 300 coverage snaps, 40 targets as the nearest defender and a catch rate allowed below expectation (meaning they’re consistently breaking up passes that were likely to be completions). Also, qualifiers needed a negative targeted expected points added (a metric used to quantify how much an individual player impacts an opponents’ scoring potential and the most important metric used in this exercise), a tight-window percentage of at least 20 (15 for linebackers, due to the nature of their position as second-level run defenders and coverage defenders) and a maximum passer rating allowed of 80.

Terrell ranked first in front of J.C. Jackson, Patrick Surtain II, and Xavien Howard.

Passer rating allowed: 49.9

Catch rate allowed below expectation: -14.6%

Tight window pct: 30.1%

Target rate: 14.8%

Average separation: 2.7 yards

Targeted expected points added: -29.4 (best in NFL)

The expectations for the Falcons might not be high entering 2022, but we should all make it a point to closely watch Terrell this season. While Atlanta fought to be a competitive team in 2021, Terrell blossomed in a significant way. He posted league-best marks in a number of categories, including completion percentage allowed (41.1 percent) and yards allowed per target (4.1). Terrell performed at an elite level in only his second professional season, boasting a coverage success rate (the percentage of targets that result in a successful play for the defense) of 68.5 percent (best among qualifiers). He has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.

This is where I have an issue with the analytics side of football. Jaire Alexander, Jalen Ramsey, Marlon Humphrey, Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward, Tre’Davious White, and other elite DBs were all not included, which is ridiculous.

I’m not saying all of those corners are better than Terrell, because the former Clemson Tiger is certainly elite; however, the list has no credibility when you don’t include the game’s best like Alexander, Ramsey, and Lattimore. Still, the eye test and the numbers both back up the fact that AJ Terrell is one of the best cover men in football.

Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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