Florida’s CJ Henderson was projected by scouts as the second-best cornerback prospect in the draft and that’s how it played out with Henderson going No. 9 overall to Jacksonville. Here are Henderson’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Jaguars’ over/under win total.
Henderson was a four-star recruit out of Miami who originally committed to the Hurricanes but then switched to Florida.
As a true freshman, Henderson appeared in 11 games for the Gators with five starts and made 22 tackles with four interceptions. He became the first freshman in school history to return an interception for a touchdown in back-to-back games after doing so in his first two career games against Michigan and Tennessee. Since 1996, he was also the only true freshman in the nation to have returned interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games.
The next season, Henderson started all 13 games. He blossomed into one of the country’s top cornerbacks as he totaled 38 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, three sacks, two interceptions, team-high seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He had picks against Kentucky and South Carolina and his one against USC sealed the win for Florida as it came late in the 4th quarter on a potential Gamecocks game-winning drive.
Last year, Henderson was limited to nine games and had 32 tackles (25 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss (6 yds.), one sack for nine yards and 11 pass breakups. He tied his career high of eight tackles (1 solo) at South Carolina but missed games against Kentucky, Tennessee and Towson due to injury.
Prior to the draft, Henderson was confident in his position in the draft following his decision to leave school early and skip Florida’s win over Virginia in the Orange Bowl to begin preparing for the draft.
“I’d definitely rank myself No. 1,” Henderson told reporters before adding … “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.”
A lengthy (31 5/8″) specimen with a 4.39 40-time, Henderson is at his best bodying superior talent in press coverage. The 21-year-old has just 4.3 percent body fat and benches 380 with a 545-pound squat and 40.5-inch vertical. Henderson is a below-average tackler and subpar at tracking the ball in the air — hence his unimpressive 10.5 yards per target allowed in 2019 – but he has the potential to shadow star receivers at the NFL level.
The Jaguars player with the record for the most interceptions as a rookie is Reggie Nelson, who recorded five interceptions in 2007 after being selected with the No. 21 pick in that year’s NFL draft. Nelson also was from Florida. The last Jaguars cornerback to record five interceptions or more in a single season was A.J. Bouye in 2017, making him the only player of the 2010s to record five interceptions or more in a season.
At 6-feet, Henderson projects as a physical press cover man with size and length to fight bigger receivers and good eyes to play off-coverage. His ball-skills should make him a high-upside corner who can lockdown boundary receivers with shadow capability in the NFL. During the pre-draft process, some scouts believed Henderson could have a higher upside than No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah, who went to Detroit.
The Jaguars traded cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Bouye over the past half-year, giving them a gaping hole at the position. Henderson should step right in and start from Day 1. He was the first UF defensive back to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Hargreaves and safety Keanu Neal four years ago.
It marked the third time in the last six years the Jaguars have used a first-round pick on a UF player. They selected defensive tackle Taven Bryan in the first round in 2018 and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. in the first round in 2015. Fowler is long gone.