While much has been made of the depth of the 2020 NFL Draft at the wide receiver and offensive tackle positions, the depth of the cornerback position hasn’t been discussed as much.
But that should change as we get closer to the draft itself, and this year boasts a good crop of cornerbacks. The top player at the position isn’t disputed, but several players down draft boards made strong cases to be first round picks at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Florida’s CJ Henderson made waves with a blistering 4.39 second 40-yard dash as a relatively big 6-foot-1, 204 pounds. Those are rare measurables for a cornerback, and Henderson backed them up with a very good field workout.
And even though the New York Giants might not be in a position to draft him, we should be familiar anyway.
You never know what is going to happen in the draft.
Prospect: C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
Games Watched: vs. LSU (2018), vs. Miami (2019), vs. Vanderbilt (2019), vs. Missouri (2019)
Red Flags: Ankle (2019)
Games Played: 30
Tackles For a loss: 8.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 20
Games Played: 9
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 11
Best: Athleticism, frame, coverage versatility
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme versatility.
Florida’s C.J. Henderson has excellent size and athleticism for the cornerback position at the NFL level. Henderson lined up across the defensive formation, on the left and right sides, on the line of scrimmage and in off coverage, as well as in the slot. He shows good physicality at the line of scrimmage in press-man coverage, firing a quick jam to disrupt receivers at the start of the play. Henderson has very quick feet and fluid hips, allowing him to stay in his backpedal longer than most corners, before effortlessly flipping his hips to turn and run. His feet and hips allow him to stay in phase with most receivers throughout their routes. Henderson has very good long speed to run with most receivers vertically as well as stay on top of most routes.
Henderson has a good awareness and discipline in zone coverage. He is quick to pick up receivers entering his zone while also passing off those exiting. He keeps his eyes in the backfield and is quick to peal off and assist in plays underneath him. Henderson also shows very good foot quickness, explosiveness, and range breaking on plays in his zone.
That quickness and explosiveness also show up as a blitzer. Henderson was asked to rush the passer relatively frequently, and he does a good job of disguising his intentions. He does a good job of using his speed to disrupt in the backfield despite rushing from relatively far away.
Henderson is an inconsistent run defender. At times he shows good competitive toughness in triggering downhill to aid in run support or pursue plays, but other times becomes a spectator. He is a generally poor tackler, too often taking poor angles and relying on arm tackles or shoulder checks to knock opposing players down. Henderson can also be overly physical in making plays on the ball, opening himself up to defensive pass interference calls.
Overall Grade: 6.6 - Has the traits to become a good starter early in his career. Should be an important contributor immediately for any team that drafts him. [Grading Scale]
C.J. Henderson projects as a starting cornerback with scheme versatility in the NFL. He has the size, quickness, fluidity, and raw athleticism necessary to play in a man or press-man coverage scheme, as well as the awareness, range, and closing burst to play in off-coverage schemes.
Henderson is an elite athlete with a nearly prototypical frame for the cornerback position. He has the fluidity and quickness to stay in phase with most receivers through their routes as well as the speed to run with them on vertical routes. He is generally good at the catch point, as evidenced by his 20 passes defensed in 30 games. However, he does need to be careful with his physicality at the NFL level to avoid being called for defensive pass interference.
Henderson offers additional upside for defensive coordinators who prefer exotic blitz schemes. He was frequently used as a blitzer from the cornerback position by Florida and did well in that role. Henderson’s quickness and raw speed allow him to have good range as a blitzer while also disguising the defense’s intentions.
He is a competitive player, but needs to show more consistent competitive toughness as a run defender — not to mention consistency in that area in general. Henderson is a willing run defender when the play is coming towards him, but has a tendency to become a spectator when he is on the back side of the play or it is away from him. He also needs to be more consistent in taking good angles to the ball carrier as well as tackling with good form. Too often his angle will force him to try an arm tackle or shoulder check, only to bounce off the ball carrier or miss completely.
Henderson’s athletic upside and coverage ability give him a high ceiling in the NFL, and he can be a good starter for a variety of defenses if he cleans up his inconsistencies.