NFL Draft: Which Scheme is the Best Fit for Florida's C.J. Henderson?
There's a lot of talk about Gators cornerback C.J. Henderson's athleticism, tackling, and coverage ability with the 2020 NFL Draft just over two weeks away.
But what about Henderson's best scheme fit?
Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner shared what he believes is the best scheme fit for his top 16 cornerbacks in the upcoming draft, split into man coverage, press-zone, off-zone/slot, and all around. And according to Renner's analysis, Henderson is what you want in a man coverage cornerback.
"There’s one fairly universal trait for man-coverage corners: speed," Renner noted when discussing the ideal man coverage cornerback. "You won’t see many 4.5 40s on this list, as they have to be able to make up ground once they inevitably lose a step in coverage."
Speed is a key component of Henderson's game and he proved that speed at the NFL Combine by posting an 84th percentile 40-yard dash among cornerbacks since 1999. While he didn't always end plays in coverage with an interception, Henderson's speed paired with above-average length made breaking up passes a little easier.
At nearly 6-foot-1, 204 pounds with 4.39 speed, Henderson has no fear of getting beaten over the top. He’s one of the most patient cornerbacks in the entire draft class — almost to a fault at times. He had an injury-plagued junior season, but his sophomore year was something to behold. He allowed only 18 catches on 36 targets and no scores all year long (365 coverage snaps).
Henderson joins A.J. Terrell (Clemson), Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn), and Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) as Renner's best fits for a man-heavy team.
The Gators ran a good bit of man coverage during Henderson's time at Florida, which would serve him well to play from day one on with a man-heavy NFL team. He didn't often press receivers at the line of scrimmage and would need to continue adding strength to do so against NFL-caliber receivers, but Henderson's quick-twitch, polished footwork and mirroring ability - of course, paired with his speed - allowed him to thrive in off-man.
Though, in my opinion, Henderson is relatively scheme versatile. While his speed will serve him well when receivers take him deep in man coverage, that ability isn't a one-trick pony. Henderson's speed comes in handy in confined space to undercut passes in zone coverage or to react to passes thrown underneath. Henderson certainly could thrive in a man-heavy scheme, though I don't believe he's limited to just that.
In three seasons with the Gators, Henderson intercepted six passes while defending 20, allowing only 52.7% of his 110 targets in coverage to be caught, according to PFF. Some have expressed concerns with his tackling, which is both valid and a bit overblown, but his coverage ability is something NFL teams covet.
Expect Henderson to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, likely within the top 20 picks.