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Analysis of Jacksonville Drafting Gators CB CJ Henderson

What are the Jacksonville Jaguars getting in Florida Gators cornerback C.J. Henderson?

The Jacksonville Jaguars made cornerback C.J. Henderson the highest-selected former Florida Gator since, funnily enough, the Jaguars took linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. with the third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Henderson, 21, was selected by Jacksonville with the ninth overall selection in the first round on Thursday night. The 6-1, 204 lb., two-time All-SEC cornerback had long been considered a first-round lock, and after blowing up the NFL Combine in February, recent discussion was pegging his talents to go in the top ten picks.

Jacksonville made those rumors come to fruition.

The Jaguars traded both of their 2019 week one starting cornerbacks away over the course of seven months, first sending All-Pro Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams and A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos. Former undrafted free agent Tre Herndon stepped up in place of Ramsey and played well enough to warrant a starting role in 2020, but the remainder of Florida's cornerback room left plenty to be desired.

In which case, Henderson made all the sense in the world for Jacksonville with the ninth overall selection. 

During his three seasons and 34 games at Florida, Henderson recorded six interceptions and 20 defended passes, while allowing only 52.7% of his 110 targets in coverage to be caught, per Pro Football Focus. Questions were to be had regarding Henderson's tackling ability, and they were certainly fair. Henderson missed nine tackles during his junior and final season at Florida. 

Context is also important to note when it comes to Henderson's junior season tape. Around this time last year, Henderson was already being considered as a possible early entrant and a first-round pick for the 2020 NFL Draft by draft analysts at large, namely Bleacher Report's Matt Miller

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So when Henderson went down in week two with a sprained ankle and proceeded to miss three games, it was easy to assume we wouldn't be seeing the same C.J. Henderson - for the rest of what was widely presumed to be his final collegiate season - that we saw in 2018. He also sat out of the team's Orange Bowl game while preparing for the draft.

Yet, in his final year in orange and blue, Henderson led the team and ranked tied for 19th in the nation in pass breakups with 11.

2018 served as a special year for Henderson, when he allowed a career-best 50% of his targets to be caught while not giving up a single touchdown in coverage. Again, tackling certainly isn't Henderson's strong-suit, but he missed the same amount of tackles in 2018 as he did as a junior, across 214 more snaps.

That year, Henderson allowed a reception on every 19.1 snaps in coverage, which led all returning SEC cornerbacks entering the 2019 season.

You can't coach his coverage ability - which is what Jacksonville or any team interested in Henderson would be drafting him for. And there were plenty of moments where Henderson put solid tackling efforts on film, which could be seen by his four sacks and eight tackles for loss during his three-year career at UF.

Expect Henderson to immediately enter training camp as Jacksonville's No. 1 cornerback. As he proved at Florida as a freshman when he started five games, Henderson is more than capable of making an impact as soon as he steps onto the scene. He'll be tasked with doing so with the Jaguars and the expectations will be high.

And as Henderson proved during his time at Florida, he can meet and surpass them.