C.J. Henderson would bring shutdown potential to Atlanta’s depleted secondary

Chris Vinel

If C.J. Henderson got his way and could pick any NFL wide receiver to line up against, he would choose Julio Jones.

If the Atlanta Falcons get their way in this month’s draft, Henderson might be standing next to Jones as his teammate in the fall.

Henderson, 21, is confident, comfortable and ready to challenge himself.

From his freshman year on, the cornerback challenged himself at the University of Florida, starting 27 games and solidifying himself as one of the best man-to-man defenders in the Southeastern Conference. In December, he announced he was skipping the Orange Bowl and his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I just felt like I was ready for the next level, the next challenge, and wanted to challenge myself,” Henderson said at February’s NFL Combine.

The NFL world thinks he’s ready, too. He is being projected as a mid-first-round pick and a potential Falcons candidate at No. 16. Last month, Atlanta cut its top cornerback, Desmond Trufant.

“I'd definitely rank myself No. 1 (for corner prospects),” Henderson said. “I expect everyone else to rank themselves the same. I highly respect the rest of the corners. What separates me is that I'm a competitor, and I'm very smart.”

At the combine, Henderson ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and put up 20 reps on the bench press. His 27 college starts were productive, too, helping him lay claim to the top corner prospect designation. In his career, he recorded 93 tackles, four sacks and six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

But last season, he didn’t intercept a single pass.

“The chances were the same,” Henderson said. “I just had to make a lot better of my opportunities, you know, take advantage of those. Few dropped interceptions, things like that.”

He also dealt with an ankle injury for all but the first two weeks of the season.

The critics haven’t dampened his hopes and excitement, though.

On April 2, he tweeted, “They must’ve forgot... 4/23 can’t wait.”

April 23 is the first day of the draft. Henderson said it will be a blessing to go to any team.

Once in the NFL, he’ll have to defend guys like Julio Jones. That just thrills him.

“He's one of the best in the game right now,” Henderson said of Jones. “I'd say that would be great. It'd be a great competition to me. I’d just study his game, watch his film and defend him from there.”

And if the Falcons draft Henderson, at least he’ll get to line up against Jones in practice.

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Comments (1)
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Blitz demon
Blitz demon

This could be a possibility for the Falcons. He's arguably the second best cornerback in the draft. But I think there's some gems in the second or third round. The Falcons drafted Trufant and Rocky Alford in the first round, although were decent at times they weren't great cornerbacks.