Pro Football Focus this week released its ranking of the top 25 NFL players under the age of 25 for the 2022 season.
Three former Clemson stars made the list in Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Terrell is the highest-ranked of the trio, checking in at No. 9.
A two-time All-ACC selection during his three-year Clemson career (2017-19), Terrell was drafted by the Falcons in the first round (16th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft and had a breakout season last year, when he tallied 81 total tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, 16 passes defended and three interceptions in 16 games.
The Atlanta native didn’t allow more than 32 yards in coverage in a game last season, allowed fewer than 20 yards in 13 games last season and also recorded the lowest passer rating allowed (47.5) and the lowest completion percentage allowed (43.9), according to PFF. Additionally, per PFF, Terrell yielded only 200 yards over the course of the entire season.
“Terrell earned the highest coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL last season (90.1),” PFF’s Trevor Sikkema wrote. “He allowed just 29 catches for 200 yards all year and surrendered a league-low 47.5 passer rating into his coverage. His massive leap in production in just his second NFL season at such a difficult position moves him into the top 10 of this list.”
Higgins comes in 10 spots after Terrell at No. 19 on PFF’s list.
A 2020 second-round pick of the Bengals, Higgins has tallied a total of 141 catches for 1,999 yards and 12 touchdowns over the first two seasons of his NFL career,
Higgins racked up 74 receptions for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season in 2021 before adding 18 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns over the course of the Bengals’ Super Bowl run — including his 100-yard receiving, two-score performance against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
“Higgins recorded 908 receiving yards as a rookie, then followed it up this past year with 1,091 yards despite the arrival of Ja’Marr Chase,” Sikkema wrote. “His PFF grade took a nice jump from 75.9 as a rookie to 84.5 this past season. He also finished strong with a ton of momentum going into 2022, as he recorded 100 receiving yards in four of his final six regular-season games and had back-to-back 100-yard games in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl. As the Bengals continue to emphasize their passing attack through quarterback Joe Burrow, expect Higgins to remain a strong WR2 opposite Chase. He’d likely be a WR1 on many other teams.”
Lawrence is ranked two spots below Higgins at No. 21.
As a rookie last season, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards and 12 touchdowns with 17 interceptions for a passer rating of 71.9 that ranked 30th among 31 qualified quarterbacks.
However, Lawrence flashed his potential at times over the course of his first NFL campaign, especially in the Jaguars’ final regular season game against the Indianapolis Colts. He finished the year on a high note, completing 23-of-32 passes for 223 yards and throwing for two touchdowns against one of the NFL’s top defenses while leading the Jags to a 26-11 victory.
“Lawrence’s rookie season wasn’t the triumphant year many were hoping for from the No. 1 overall pick, with him tallying 3,600 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions,” Sikkema wrote. “But let’s be real, there’s no chance it was going to be under Urban Meyer and the circus that was the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021. Among all the chaos, Lawrence still showed flashes of that special quarterback ability while navigating the typical NFL learning curve. With Doug Pederson now as his head coach, we’re expecting a huge leap from Lawrence in Year 2.”
–Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
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