As Florida's marquee draft prospect in 2020, we've expanded our final team fits story from three fits to five for Gators cornerback C.J. Henderson.
The three-year Gator has proven himself as a top cornerback in terms of coverage ability, flawlessly mirroring receivers in man coverage throughout his career at Florida. According to Pro Football Focus, Henderson posted a season-long completion percentage of 54.1% or better each year of his career, to go with six interceptions and 20 defended passes.
Henderson is considered a first-round lock at this point, after blowing away the 2020 NFL Combine with a 4.39-second 40 yard dash and several other impressive results in athletic testing. At 6-1, 204 lbs., with solid arm length at 31 5/8 inches, any team in need of a cornerback in the first round will likely have Henderson high on their board.
A big reason why we will provide five NFL team fits for Henderson, compared to the three that we have published for each of Florida's other projected draft picks, is that there are plenty of teams within the first round that badly need cornerback help. And after his Combine showing, Henderson is going to be a hot commodity.
Which teams could pull the trigger in the first round?
First round picks: 9th and 20th overall
Jacksonville appears to have created Henderson's draft range with their two first round picks, considering their pressing need at cornerback.
The Jaguars have traded both of their 2019 week one starting quarterbacks since the season kicked off, sending the disgruntled Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for two first round picks - including 20th overall - and his counterpart A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos for a fourth round picks. The team signed a veteran in Rashaan Melvin in free agency and believes in former undrafted free agent-turned-starter Tre Herndon, but that simply isn't enough.
While they are not mirror images as cornerback prospects, Henderson's size and athleticism is similar to that of Ramsey, who stands at 6-1, 209 lbs., and clocked a 4.41-second 40 yard dash at the 2016 NFL Combine. Ramsey has longer arms and his jumps were as elite as they come, but both tested positively in most respects.
Jacksonville has loads of needs across their roster, and might not elect to draft Henderson with their first selection, though it is possible. However, with 12 picks in the draft this year, Jacksonville has the arsenal to move up from 20th overall to land Henderson if they so choose.
First round pick: 16th overall
After releasing cornerback Desmond Trufant when free agency kicked off, the Atlanta Falcons desperately need to add talent to their secondary.
That was, truthfully, already clear prior to Trufant's release, a move made to create cap space. The Falcons owned the No. 22 passing defense in the NFL last year, while Trufant led the team in interceptions with four in only nine games.
Ironically, the Falcons had just as big of a need on the edge as the pass rush has been lacking as of late, and the Falcons patched that hole by signing a former Gators' first round pick in Dante Fowler Jr. The possibility that the Falcons end the 2020 offseason with two former Gators-turned-first round picks is high, should Henderson make it to the 16th selection.
Las Vegas Raiders
First round picks: 12th and 19th overall
Another team with two picks in Henderson's range and a dire need of help at cornerback is the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Raiders traded former first round pick Gareon Conley to Houston earlier in the 2019 season, in the middle of his third year with the team - signaling a rebuild coming at defensive back. While 2019 second round pick Trayvon Mullen emerged as a solid option on the backend and the team signed Eli Apple away from the New Orleans Saints on a one year deal, improvements are still needed as Las Vegas reshapes its secondary.
Henderson fits the age-old Raiders mold with his elite speed, a key trait in the eyes of late owner Al Davis. While Jacksonville's ninth-overall pick appears to be the ceiling for Henderson's services, the Raiders' 12th overall selection could be the sweet spot.
First round pick: 17th overall
Dallas decided it was in their best interest to pay running back Ezekiel Elliott $94 million over six years last offseason, knowing well that quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver, and cornerback Byron Jones - all of which playing more important positions than running back when it comes to contract value - were set to become free agents this offseason.
In return, Dallas is in a bit of cap space limbo. The Cowboys could not reach an agreement on a long-term extension with Prescott and were forced to franchise tag him. Cooper was able to reach a new, five-year deal, but Jones was allowed to walk in free agency and he ended up signing with the Miami Dolphins.
So, essentially, by paying a non-premium position player top-of-the-line money, the Cowboys allowed one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL to walk away from the team with nothing to recoup. Now, the Cowboys are tasked with replacing that corner.
What made Jones appealing to Dallas when the Cowboys selected him in 2015 was his elite athleticism, greater than most any cornerback you'll ever find. Henderson might not be the complete athlete Jones is, but he's as close as it comes in this class.
San Francisco 49ers
First round picks: 13th and 31st overall
San Francisco rode an elite defense and run game to the most recent Super Bowl, and with two first round picks this year, the 49ers are placing themselves in a position to contend again.
Though, while a team like San Francisco might look to patch up immediate roster holes, cornerback is going to become a need in the near future for the 49ers. Richard Sherman is fresh off of an elite campaign, while second-year corner Emmanuel Mosely enjoyed a breakout campaign and K'wuan Williams thrived in the nickel cornerback role.
All three of those cornerbacks are projected to become free agents next year, while the 49ers are currently only projected to have $32 million in cap space next offseason.
The 49ers run a similar defensive scheme to Jacksonville and Atlanta, allowing their cornerbacks to operate in space and utilize their athleticism to break on routes in zone an off-man coverage. Given Henderson's long and breaking speed, he is a great fit for all three teams.
In year one, Henderson can pair with Henderson outside to give the 49ers a high-caliber pair at cornerback, with Williams in the nickel spot and Mosely playing in a rotation to keep both outside guys fresh. By year two, Henderson could be the headline of San Francisco's cornerback room.