Mock Draft Roundup: Mel Kiper Mocks C.J. Henderson in Top 20

Zach Goodall

As we enter the offseason of both college and NFL football, NFL Draft talk will heat up for football fans across the nation.

That talk will be widespread in Gainesville. The Florida Gators will be well represented in the 2020 selection ceremony. 

Eight senior Florida prospects - running back Lamical Perine, wide receivers Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond, and Freddie Swain, defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, and punter Tommy Townsend - have participated in all-star games designed to introduce the players to NFL scouts and personnel. 

And that goes without mentioning Florida's only underclassman to declare early for the NFL: Projected first round pick, cornerback C.J. Henderson.

Henderson made his decision known on December 6th of 2019, and skipped the team's Orange Bowl appearance. This came after a season that was hampered early on by an ankle injury, which led to him sitting out of Florida's three game stretch against Kentucky, Towson, and Tennessee.

Yet, Henderson was still a dominant, shut-down cornerback in his nine appearances. The speedy cornerback recorded 33 total tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, and 11 defended passes - ranking tied for sixth in the nation and averaging 1.2 PBUs per game. 

Pro Football Focus credits Henderson with allowing only 54.1% of his 37 targets in coverage to be caught. He allowed the same rate in his freshman season on the same amount of targets, and an even better 50% on 36 targets as a sophomore. Henderson finished his three-year stint at Florida with six interceptions and 20 pass breakups.

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper released his first mock draft ahead of the upcoming draft on Friday, after Senior Bowl practices had finished up and the underclassmen declaration deadline had passed. 

Henderson ended up as Florida's lone first round projection, going No. 17 overall to the Dallas Cowboys. Kiper explained the pick as a result of what should be a busy offseason full of roster shuffling for Dallas, which you can read below.

Here's a quick look at the Cowboys' top free agents, which includes some true star power: quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, pass-rushers Michael Bennett and Robert Quinn, and cornerback Byron Jones. Can they keep them all? Dallas likely has budgeted to pay up for Prescott and Cooper (it gave up its 2019 first-rounder for him), but Jones could be the odd man out on a team that is already paying top dollar at several positions. That means the Cowboys will need a cheap option as a replacement corner. With smooth hips and great recovery speed, Henderson is a natural cover corner with a 6-foot-1 frame. Safety is another position to keep an eye on, and Dallas could target Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney.

Expected to shine at the NFL Combine given a previous 4.35 40 yard dash as a high school prospect, Henderson could very well shoot up into the top 20 picks of the draft, and Dallas would make a lot of sense.

Though the Cowboys are in the midst of a coaching staff transition, it can be expected that the team will remain zone and off-man heavy, based on the strengths of their defense. 

Henderson actually profiles similarly to Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (6-0, 190 lbs., 4.38 40 yard dash - check out is his NFL Combine scouting report), a player who Dallas' new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan groomed in Atlanta after he was selected with the 22nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. At the time, Nolan was entering his second season in the same position for the Falcons.

With that being said, Henderson is a fluid, pure coverage prospect who can shut down zones and mirrors footwork very well in off-man coverage. He would transition seamlessly into coverage for Dallas.

What do you think? Do you see Henderson as a fit in Dallas? Was he drafted too low, too high, or just right? Let GatorMaven know in the comment section below.

Comments (3)
No. 1-2
irishgatorman
irishgatorman

did you forget Tommy Townsend?

GatprJohn
GatprJohn

Sure...he’s a fit in Dallas...I like him Seattle and Boston too


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