Back Florida’s C.J. Henderson Prepared To Provide

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Florida’s C.J. Henderson Prepared To Provide

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Former Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson play-making ability makes him a very intriguing prospect that will certainly be a first-round pick.

It’s an honor going at any point in the first round of the NFL draft, but there’s obviously more prestige the higher a player goes on the draft board. However, getting drafted later in the first round increases the likelihood of landing with a good team.

That should be the case for former Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson in 2020. As the second or third-best cornerback on most experts’ draft player rankings, it’s not likely Henderson is a Top 10 selection. If he also falls past No. 15, then things could get really interesting.

The longer he stays available, the better chance he will have at immediate NFL stardom.

Henderson’s playmaking ability makes him a very intriguing prospect that will certainly be a first-round pick. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL combine, which was second-fastest among cornerbacks in attendance. While his draft skinny at NFL.com says he can be prone to “mental mistakes from time to time,” his speed gives him the ability to make up for it.

His cover and ball skills have led some NFL scouts to compare Henderson to Marcus Peters, who has been one of the best ball-hawking cornerbacks in the NFL since 2015. Peters has made the All-Pro team twice and as a rookie in 2015, he led the NFL with eight interceptions.

NFL.com compared Henderson to former cornerback Carlos Rogers. While he wasn’t nearly as heralded as Peters during his career, Rogers posted 17 interceptions in 10 seasons, including six picks during a Pro Bowl 2011 season.

“(Henderson) has the twitchy acceleration to jump a throw and take it away if the quarterback lingers on the target,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein at NFL.com.

Things could change over the last month of the NFL draft process, but Henderson is generally viewed as a Top 20 selection this year. While that means he still could not play for a 2019 playoff team, he may be in a place not far from competing for a title.

If he slips past No. 15, the most intriguing landing spot for Henderson would be with the Dallas Cowboys. The biggest defensive hole for Dallas over the last few years has been at safety, but the Cowboys are losing top cornerback Byron Jones to free agency this March. That could lead to Dallas drafting a cornerback early in the 2020 draft in an effort to keep the status quo.

Henderson won’t seemingless replace Jones, but the former Gators cornerback is expected to start from day one. The Cowboys own the No. 17 pick in the first round.

Should he fall just out of the Top 20, the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 21 would be another great spot for Henderson. Despite three straight playoff berths, the Eagles have dealt with a tremendous amount of injuries in the secondary each of the past two years. Henderson would solidify that position in Philadelphia and help a defense that was 22nd in interceptions with 11 during 2019.

Neither the Cowboys and Eagles, ironically both in the subpar NFC East, won 10 games in 2019, but it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see either or both of these franchises return as serious Super Bowl contenders this fall. Depending, of course, on what happens with Dak Prescott, both teams appear to have the quarterback in place to make a deep playoff run; it’s just a matter of filling needs elsewhere on the roster.

Both NFC East rivals could use a ball-hawking corner like Henderson in their secondary.

Other potential landing spots for the ex-Florida defensive back include Denver at No. 15 and Miami at No. 18. Atlanta with the No. 16 selection doesn’t seem out of the question either.

With the exception of the Dolphins, the teams most likely to draft Henderson aren’t too far away from earning a playoff spot. While he’d surely rather be a Top 10 pick, Henderson dropping outside the Top 15 would enable him to land in a situation where his services could propel a team back to the postseason.

If he’s a catalyst for that happening, Henderson as a defensive rookie of the year candidate doesn’t seem unlikely.