A.J. Terrell, Clemson Cornerback
6-foot-1, 195 pounds — 31 1/4 inch arms — 9-inch hands
4.42 40-yard dash, 15 Bench Reps, 34.5-inch Vertical Jump, 129.0-inch Broad Jump
Third-year Junior from Atlanta, GA born on Sept. 23, 1998
A.J. Terrell started the past two seasons at boundary cornerback for the Clemson Tigers defense after playing a limited role as a true freshman, earning a wealth of experience against high-level competition while playing an array of techniques and alignments. Per Sports Info Solutions tracking data, Terrell played man coverage 46 percent of the time and was in zone 54 percent of the time, with most of his zone looks coming in Cover 3 or Cover 4. He’s a long-legged athlete with a wiry frame whose short torso causes many to overestimate his slightly below average length and hand size. Terrell has no injury history of note and his ability to play in multiple schemes should make him an attractive option for teams seeking a plug-and-play starter.
As a pass defender, Terrell’s quick feet and agile backpedal allow him to mirror and match receivers particularly well while in-phase. He has a proficient understanding of divider leverage while playing match-man and zone techniques and has a keen ability to keep his eye on the quarterback while simultaneously tracking receivers with peripheral vision. While not overwhelmingly physical as a press corner, Terrell has the experience and tenacity necessary to play bump and run and finds success re-routing smaller receivers. In press bail situations he’s able to flip his hips and turn and burn quite well for a player of his size. He utilizes a punchy inside jab before bailing with outside leverage and does a good job staying in control and not lunging at receivers.
Terrell’s main issues in coverage stem from his high center of gravity, which may simply be due to his leggy frame. He plays high, which can result in a loss of balance when defending against curls and comebacks. This hampers his ability to sink his hips and rally to receivers who make sharp breaks. To combat this issue, Terrell stays patient with his hips and is not often fooled by double moves or fancy footwork. While Terrell has NFL-level reactive athleticism, he’s not a burner or elite click-and-close guy, and he looks more like a 4.50 player in recovery mode despite his official 4.42 time at the NFL Combine.
When matched up against stronger, more physical athletes downfield, Terrell has a tendency to try to overcome his lack of play strength by getting a little bit grabby, which will draw flags at the next level. He maintains a dogged demeanor downfield and is competitive fighting for 50/50 balls, though he doesn’t have elite hops or natural ball skills. He likely won’t force many turnovers at the next level as he almost always plays it safe rather than attempting to bait quarterbacks into interceptions.
Terrell is an aggressive and willing tackler, as most boundary corners must be, but his lack of strength and inability to consistently wrap and roll saps his effectiveness against the run. He’s willing to stick his nose in the fan and be a force player when the ball comes to his side and takes conservative angles when the tracking from the opposite side of the field. As a tackler, Terrell puts himself in proper position frequently with good tracking ability and routinely takes a proper power step while initiating contact, but he often will try to throw a heavy far shoulder into a ball carrier and go for a big hit rather than attacking with his near shoulder. He will stack and shed stalk blockers well when run plays come his way but gets a bit lazy with his block shedding when the ball isn’t coming in his direction.
Terrell is a pro-ready cornerback prospect with no discernible injury issues who can step in immediately and play in a wide variety of schemes, which should make him attractive to a lot of teams come draft night. His winning pedigree and competitiveness should endear himself to coaches and teammates. He isn’t the long, rangy cornerback that his height and 40-yard dash time suggest, and his ceiling isn’t as high as some of his peers, but scheme versatility and a lack of any glaring weakness give him a high floor. His balance issues may never go away due to his high cut hips, but as Terrell gets stronger he should become a well-rounded No. 2 cornerback who carves out a long NFL career.