The NFL Top 100 Players of 2022 list, a group compiled by the players themselves, included eight cornerbacks, who were ranked from 89th (Saints’ Marshon Lattimore) to ninth (Rams’ Jalen Ramsey). Every player mentioned is a tremendous talent, even Trevon Diggs (ranked 23rd). I just don’t think he’s worthy of top-100 recognition. That said, in my opinion, there are only about three cornerbacks in the league right now who are above Atlanta’s A.J. Terrell. Ramsey, the Chargers’ J.C. Jackson, and Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander.
Alexander didn’t make the Top 100 because he was injured most of the season. He only played in four games all year. That absence is excusable, but to leave Terrell off is a crime against all things holy. Strictly as a cover corner, Terrell is one of the best in the league. Pro Football Focus gave Terrell the second-highest coverage grade of all qualified corners in 2021, behind only Ramsey. He was one of only five corners to receive a grade of 80 or higher.
Perhaps there is an argument that Terrell hasn’t been great for long enough, and thus, he shouldn’t be included among the best corner in the league. That would be a decent counterpoint if Diggs wasn’t also on the list. In 2020, Diggs had a very similar season to Terrell. Terrell was better against the run, but that’s mostly irrelevant for the sake of this article. The fact is that if Diggs’ breakout year was good enough for the players to rank him the 23rd-best player in the NFL, Terrell needs to be in the top 50, and that’s me being lenient.
Terrell was best in the league in completion percentage allowed (41.1 percent), yards allowed per target (4.1), and coverage success rate (68.5 percent), according to Next Gen Stats. Terrell also allowed just a 49.9 percent passer rating when targeted and led the NFL in targeted expected points added (-29.4).
I think the best determining factor of a cornerback’s greatness though is target rate. If you’re the top corner on your team, you’re likely lining up against the opposing quarterback’s top option whenever you’re on the field. Quarterbacks usually want to feed their top wideout. Despite that fact, Terrell faced a target rate of just 14.1 percent, the lowest among the eight cornerbacks in the Top 100. In fact, the closest was Cleveland’s Denzel Ward, who faced 71 targets in 15 games. Terrell faced five fewer targets in one more game — or 41 more coverage snaps, which is probably a better measuring stick honestly. I think that’s a pretty good measurement of how much opposing quarterbacks respected Terrell.
After all, wasn’t it Tom Brady who said that if he didn’t respect a cornerback, he’d throw at him all day?
I understand that the cornerback position may not be the most glamorous position in the eyes of other NFL players. I understand that perhaps Terrell got overlooked because of how bad the Falcons were last year, but that’s no excuse to leave someone that talented off of a top players’ list. You can look up (almost) any statistic, any advanced stat, any piece of analytics regarding cornerback play in 2021 and Terrell will be near the top of the list. He was absolutely phenomenal, and well-deserving of Top 100 recognition.