Here's what Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn had to say after the team selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first-round of the NFL draft as late Thursday night leaked into early Friday morning:
THOMAS DIMITROFF: "Thanks for your patience. Look, we went into this draft with a couple of needs, and our main need was at corner, and we were very excited to have an opportunity to pick A.J. Terrell at 16. We hung tough, and we entertained other opportunities to think about potentially moving up, but this was where we wanted to be. This was a player that we had targeted from the beginning of our draft preparations here, and again, very excited that he's on our team moving forward. He's going to be an important part of our defense."
DAN QUINN: "Yeah, I concur with T [Thomas] 100 percent. I thought he and the scouting staff did an excellent job of really going through as many scenarios as you could imagine, when you're into this space of where we're at with 16, up, back, so I thought just the preparation side of things made you really feel confident heading into tonight, so by this afternoon it was, all right, let's get this thing cooking and get started. Glad to open up with you guys tonight and let's get the whole thing started for the weekend."
» MORE: What Terrell said about joining Falcons
On what traits pushed A.J. Terrell to the top of the cornerback group after the first two:
DIMITROFF: "Yeah, he's a 6'1" guy and who is 4.4 flat guy with athleticism, agility, body control, his ability to get his hands on balls. We're excited about his natural ball skills. He's a smart guy. Really squared away, full package for us, and I think that's a big thing for us. Seems like he fits in very well with Dan's system."
On how did Terrell fit into the overall scheme of things and how fast can he be ready to play:
QUINN: "Well, hopefully, we can get him ready to play quickly, and he'll be an outside corner first. That's where he's got the most experience and where he's really thrived. So that's where we'll start him, outside first, and we'll hope to get situated and hope to get started with him just as soon as that's all permissible. We'll start in some form or fashion with all the rookies in just a few weeks, so we're still waiting on some guidelines from the NFL of what that looks like on a virtual program to get started, but that's where we're at, and he'll start as an outside corner for us."
On whether the Raiders picking a wide receiver had them feeling that Terrell was going to fall to No. 16:
DIMITROFF: "That's a good question because that was right where we were -- we were really honed in on 9, 10, 11, 12, seeing where the corners were going to go, and when they took a receiver, that allowed us to take a deep breath and hold tight thinking that there were a couple other position teams out there that needed that position potentially, but they went another way, of course, so we were fortunate. We feel very good about the opportunity to get him at 16, honestly, and not have to move up and use picks to get a position of need that we needed, of course."
On had Terrell not been available, was corner still going to be the first round need and would they have traded back:
DIMITROFF: "We would have looked at what was there potentially at 16, and we honestly had three other players that we were looking at, not particularly at the secondary spot, but as I've told you before, we have a couple needs, we looked there, and we focused, and we thought we had, again, a couple other players in that position that we would have considered, as well."
» MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM: Falcons right to stay put at No. 16
On did he make an offer to move up at all:
DIMITROFF: "We didn't make offers. I've said this, there's a difference between inquiring and making an offer. What was happening during this week, as I mentioned in our presser, was there conversations about potential compensation if something did come to fruition. Nothing was concrete. There weren't concrete offers. There were just discussions. Again, fairly loose discussions if opportunities came our way, both going forward and back, of course."
On what positions are they looking at for Friday, and would he look at a second-round quarterback:
DIMITROFF: "A second-round quarterback?"
DIMITROFF: "We'll look at every opportunity there. At 47 it's a good place for us to be. We already mapped out a couple of different positions that we were looking at. Of course, I don't want to get into the specifics of those. I don't want to tip our hand necessarily, which you would expect. But we feel like there's a really rich area there between the early part of the second round to 47, and we feel like we might have some really good opportunities there."
On any concern on Terrell’s performance in the National Championship game might have dissuaded them from picking him:
DIMITROFF: "No, that performance wouldn't have dissuaded us at all. He was in phase quite a bit. Burrow obviously had a hell of a game, dropped the ball in a lot. There were a lot of opportunities there that they really capitalized on. We look at the full picture, as you can imagine. He had a great -- very substantial game in the National Championship the year before, Alabama game. He had a number of other games where he really stood out in our minds. So one game does not dissuade us."
On anything serious about moving up to No. 9 to get C.J. Henderson:
DIMITROFF: "At the corner position we were focused on AJ Terrell."
On did he prioritize cornerback or defensive line going into the draft or see best available:
DIMITROFF: "No, we prioritized corner."
On that defensive line is going to be a priority these next couple rounds:
DIMITROFF: "I don't know if it's going to be a priority. I think, again, as I've mentioned before, we'll continue to build our depth on both sides, both sides of the front. We're always looking to fortify. There's opportunities there. I will say, as we've talked before, there are opportunities on the interior and there's opportunities outside on the defensive side. I think there's a number of positions we're looking at. I don't mean to repeat myself, but I think at that 47 area there definitely is a consideration there."
On how quickly can a young cornerback make an impression in the league or make an impact on a team:
QUINN: "Number one, we certainly at that position — he's played a lot of press coverage, so that's good, where he has some experience of playing that. It's not necessarily teaching a new technique, so we certainly have expectations for him and coming in and playing well based on what we've seen and how he played. That's why he was such a good fit for how we want to play. Long and tall and fast, and he can play down by the line of scrimmage. He's got plenty of experience doing that. We'll take him and keep going and coaching him as we go through it."
On how do you get a young player like Terrell ready with the current virtual meetings set in place and what challenges does that lead to:
QUINN: "Yeah, I think number one, I don't know what the guideline how far it would go, but if it starts into a virtual program, which I'm fully expecting it to be like we're doing with the veterans now, the first place would be the online teaching, much like you and I are on teleconferences and voice-overs to go through that. So the guidelines for the rookies will be up to five hours a day for a five-day week, where the veterans are up to four on a four-day week. How we navigate that and put basically some school together will be a big part of it. Already a number of the veterans are already asking for his number, and that will be the case over the weekend where they're wanting to get in contact with him. I would say it will be all hands on deck from the teaching side. The coaching way from virtual learning, and then as workouts -- what is going to be nice for A.J. is there will be some teammates that are local for him when there tends to be some time for the guys to get together. I would anticipate when that is available, even if we're not able to work with him, that some of his teammates will, and that will be one of the advantages of being one of the local guys."
On how did he think the virtual draft went tonight:
DIMITROFF: "Yeah, I think the virtual draft went well for us. We were dialed in on our Tech world. It was connected very well. We were able to have discussions easily, and I think everything went very well. We had no glitches, no security issues. Luckily, we didn't have any weather that we had to hook up our generators. I was really excited about it, and interacting with the other GMs, I don't think that had anything to do with the lack of trades because of technology. I think there was a lot of discussions prior to and even during the draft. I just think people -- when I look back on it, I think the top nine basically went as we projected, and it seemed like everyone was getting who they wanted at that point, and I think that kind of set up, I think, the round for not having a ton of trades."
On but what specifically about Terrell do you think makes him a good fit for this system:
QUINN: “I think it's the speed and the length. And the reason being is when you're playing outside at corner, you want to be able to control a receiver vertically down the field, especially when you play a lot of man-to-man and three-deep. Those are the positions that often get targeted on throws down the field. That kind of goes with playing in a scheme of middle field defense. His speed and length and the ability to stay on top of receivers, play at the line of scrimmage because of his length, those are the things that fit the best.”
On virtually teaching physically involved techniques:
QUINN: "Well, I think that part, it'll be hard. What we can do first is like we do with all the players here, we'll start with them just like we do with the veterans, that 'Here's where we think you're at,' and we really want to start targeting some things for them to work on when they do their on-the-field work without us. That's the first step. That would be the one thing or the two things. 'Let's lock in on this over the next two or three weeks. That's where we'll start with him, but it actually even goes through even for the off-season program because even if we're OTAs, it's still not the same amount of contact. That's how we would train any player, whatever the skill was. Let's start from one thing, map it out and how we want to improve on it, and we'll do that with AJ [Terrell] and the teammates that we draft here and sign over the weekend."
On whether or not they look for guys who have experiences that will help them adjust to the NFL quicker:
QUINN: "I would say there will be a lot of coaching for him on and off the field. Off the field with Joe Whitt and Raheem [Morris] and their experience there. You know who else on the field, what better team to come on than to go on the field and line up across from Calvin [Ridley] and Ju [Julio Jones]. What's kind of special with Julio is he not only is going to be involved with the offensive players but the defensive ones too. Talking through releases, what worked, what didn't work. For a corner to come into a scenario where he has to train against some of the best in the world and what I would consider to be really top-shelf coaches, I think it's an ideal space to come into as a corner and to be a part of this brotherhood.
To me, he'll be challenged in practice. I promise you. He'll be challenged in the classroom, too. I promise you. What I love about A.J. [Terrell], and I think it's pretty obvious, this guy is a hell of a competitor. He loves the challenge. That's why I'm not surprised he commented to you about the big games. He loves to compete, and I think the tape shows that."
On his relationship with Dabo Swinney and the comparison he made between Terrell and Deshaun Watson:
DIMITROFF: "Yeah, I had a conversation with him, and his comparison to me probably a little closer to home was he and AJ and where Grady Jarrett is and that they could literally be roommates; they're that kind of people. They're guys that are dedicated and focused and want to be the best. They have high expectations of themselves. They hold themselves to such high expectations in everything they do, not only on the field but off the field. I'm really — again, really encouraged and excited that we have a player at this position that has a well-rounded package to him, and with Dan himself and his staff, I really think we're going to get the most out of him, and I think the combination of on the field and off the field is a really positive thing for us."
On Terrell’s skillset meshing with the cornerback group:
QUINN: "Sure, all of them are good, and one, I''m really excited because I think when you're training someone right from the ground up all the way through the system, all three of these guys are fantastic profile fits. The NFC South we've got some pretty good QBs, so I would say if you're looking around the league saying, that looks pretty good, we're going to know right away. We're going to expect really high expectations from our corners and the style that we want to play. We're excited as you can imagine because Isaiah and Shef and AJ are really going to be able to play at the line of scrimmage and challenge guys. They have speed, they have length, and that's what we need. We're really excited to work with these guys, and I can't wait for them to all get together. We won't be able to do that now, but eventually, we'll all get back to playing football. It was fun tonight to have football back in some regards, so that felt great, so we're really excited to have all three of them on the field together."
On his initial video call with Terrell:
QUINN: "Well, number one, I remember him because he's local, so we kind of started off that way about what he was doing. We kind of talked about his family first and how everybody was doing; was everybody doing okay, number one. So that's important because we wanted to make sure -- we've got tons of resources in the NFL, just to make sure everybody was good, and that was good, and then we talked about the routine, what are you doing to stay in it, and you really found out a lot just in that space, here's what I'm doing with my day, here's how I'm attacking it. He has been obviously on a lot of calls as a corner who was highly regarded. A lot of people were wanting to get his attention and get his time. But what we had in that time, just straight interaction, engagement with one another, we talked about a number of different things. Thomas usually leads the way on those from the personality standpoint and I come back in and help on some of the football side. You're just looking for a connection and seeing if you'd be the right fit for one another, personality, temperament, engagement on it, football, maturity, you get a sense for their competitiveness just talking through with somebody, so it was a good visit for us. It's been one of the silver linings to have these visits with players. Thomas and I have spoken with more players this year than we have in years past. We haven't visited as many in person, but I would say we worked really hard at talking to a lot of guys, and I would think some players that are going to come off the board over the next few days, I would bet those would have been some players that we've had some engagement with, as well."
On having more conversations with these players this season was an advantage to be able to have these video calls with more players than they would in a typical draft:
QUINN: “I would say there is an advantage to this because we have had that. And so we're forced into it in a different space to say, okay, we won't maybe get the in-person contact that we normally have with let's call it 20 and how do we get that with 60 or more to say we're still going to use the same time and try to engage as many people as we can. Fortunately for Thomas, he actually had this thought all the way back from the combine of how he conducted the interviews, and we carried that through into the off-season program. So the same format that we used at the combine we carried that through into the off-season program, and I thought it really paid dividends for us, and I would assume -- we haven't spoken about it yet - we have a little bit - to say this would be something we will consider doing a lot of next year, as well, because we got a lot out of it.”
On whether he thought there was more depth at defensive tackles and maybe not so much at corner kind of lean them in the direction of going with corner and particularly for Terrell:
QUINN: "It's funny when you look at it, I don't know if these numbers are all the way accurate, I just am going a little bit off my head, but from a passing league, it's corners, there might have been six, and I think wide receivers there had to be about six, so offensive tackles about another six or seven. As you're going into the next couple of days, there's that position that we had talked about that had some depth and some pass rushers at defensive tackle. Just some years that's how it falls through, some of the corners were regarded higher and some of the defensive tackles maybe a little bit lower. That doesn't mean that if you're not a first-round pick you're not a good player. That's far from it. I think it just so happens that more of the defensive tackles with Thomas and a lot of the scouts' views of it, they would fall into a separate category, and there's still going to be some excellent players tomorrow night. It'll be exciting tomorrow night. I think a lot of us probably didn't have a lot of suspense about the first eight or nine picks. Well, I don't think that's going to be the case tomorrow night where we have such a, okay, I think I know it's this one then this one. I think tomorrow there will be a little more intrigue in terms of the picks, and there's some excellent players as we're looking at the board tonight and you re-stack it and reset it, there's certainly some excellent players that are going to be coming off and getting their names called tomorrow night."
On what did he see in Terrell that made him confident that he could turn into that lock-down corner, especially with the receiving corps and quarterbacks that he's going to face in the NFC South:
DIMITROFF: "Look, everyone knows that's a tough position to be out on the island, and he has the ability to be inside and outside. We'll play him outside, of course. I have no doubt in my mind that he'll continue to evolve as a corner. Again, his true athleticism, his ability to touch the ball, his ability to have body control and react, I'm not concerned about that. Again, everyone is going to get beat in this league and especially out on the corner position given the athleticism out there of some of the corners you're going to be playing. There, of course, are going to be growing pains. We have the utmost confidence that he's going to continue to grow with each step along the way."
On how the way they have attacked the defensive backs in the last few drafts and getting Terrell tonight speak to needing depth especially when you're going against passing attacks each week:
QUINN: "Yeah, it's true the league has really become a passing league first, in a lot of senses, so you'd better have on both sides a way to attack offensively, but also on the defensive sideways to match up, and especially when you're needing to play man-to-man and deny the ball and go into third down and red zone. So it was critical, and I would say crucial for us to find those match-ups. That's what was so important about this off-season for us. Thomas started way back to say the musts and where do we have to get to. We have a big weekend ahead of us, but to knock down some of those that we had to have, that was critical, and certainly, corner was one of the spots obviously that we had marked that was going to be a big one for us here this off-season. To address it right away, that was big for us."
On whether they feel confident that the next couple rounds even into Saturday that you could find some guys that could help bolster that attack on quarterbacks:
DIMITROFF: "Yeah, I think we can. Again, there are a number of positions that we can go and a number of different directions, honestly, defensively and offensively. And there's talent there. This is a good draft in the second and third-round area, and we have both of those picks, which we're really happy."
AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES
Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads class | Top 10
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lesson | Top 10
Tight ends: Harrison Bryant top prospect | Top 10
Guards/Centers: Solomon Kindley a late-rounder | Top 10
Offensive tackles: Austin Jackson's life lesson | Top 10
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand out | Top 10
Defensive ends: A 'generational' talent | Top 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LB | Top 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special teams: Georgia's kick-centered | Return with flash | Top 10
Cornerbacks: Jeff Okudah a lockdown CB | Top 10
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