As the Jaguars’ pick neared last night, the team was left without the ability to select top-rated players such as left tackle in Andrew Thomas, linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, cornerback Jeffery Okudah, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown as they were all off the board.
Instead the Jaguars stuck to their board, according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, and selected former Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson. Henderson came into the draft with potentially the most upside considering his athleticism, speed, and physicality to go up against team’s number one receivers.
Following the selection, Henderson joined the local Jaguars media to discuss his thoughts on getting selected, how much it means to him to finally achieve his dream, and what the former first team All-SEC defender brings to the Jaguars defense.
Surrounded by his mom, dad, brother, and sister, Henderson appeared emotional during the press conference, clearly appreciative of the opportunity in front of him.
“The experience back at home is the same feeling you have at the draft and still thankful that I got the opportunity, so I am taking advantage of that,” said Henderson.
That’s all any Jaguars’ fans will surely want to hear regarding their top-10 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Henderson routinely defended opposing team’s number one receivers while in the SEC, including top-flight LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Watching #Florda's CJ Henderson match up against #LSU's Ja'marr Chase was an epic battle among top tier players.— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) April 17, 2020
Chase had 2 catches on 7 targets, and one 5-yard TD on CJ.. Overall, on the 26 snaps Henderson covered Chase 1 on 1, he did a Great Job. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/nSspqbPNos
Henderson met with the Jaguars on three separate occasions prior to the draft, which could indicate the team had significant interest from the start. Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor, Henderson’s former teammate while at Florida in 2017 and 2018, told the Jaguars great things about the cornerback, he said, “And I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity.”
Modeling his game after Arizona Cardinals cornerback and former LSU Tiger Patrick Peterson, Henderson, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, says he plans “to dominate” in the league, using his smarts in the film room to get better, and athleticism on the field to match up with team’s number one receivers, and has the versatility to follow receivers in the slot or out wide.
“I feel like I bring a lot to Jacksonville,” said Henderson. “I feel like I can take out opponents and number one receivers and I plan to do that here.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Henderson did not allow more than 20 receptions in each of his three years at Florida, and never surrendered more than 390 yards in a year.
Being able to stay close to home and his college was “huge”, said Henderson. Growing up in South Florida, Henderson won’t be too far away from home now that he’s in Jacksonville, and attended Florida which is no more than an hour and change away from TIAA Bank Field, a perfect situation for the cornerback.
A self-described reserved, but not shy, cornerback Henderson should being a silent assassin mentality on the gridiron, able to showcase himself on the field with his play, and not necessarily with his mouth.
“I work hard, and you’ll earn my respect,” said the confident cornerback.
For now, Henderson plans to use what he knows, and sort of “reset” with the Jaguars, soaking up all the knowledge from his knew NFL coaches.
“I feel like I can work on every aspect of my game and I feel like I’m nowhere near my furthest potential.”
While on the video conference call, Gators head coach Dan Mullen popped in to congratulate his former disciple, and express how excited he is for him to not be too far away from his former college at Florida.
“Congratulations, we’re fired up, we’re excited for you,” Mullen told Henderson. “I’ll tell you what, that might be the best pick the Jags have made in a long, long time, so I know they’re going to be thrilled and everybody in Florida’s excited to have you at home.”
Mullen didn’t mince words when talking about what Henderson brought to the table for the Jaguars, highly complimentary of the cornerback who he calls a “perfectionist.”
“I think one thing they’ll see is he’s one of the first guys on the practice field,” added Mullen. “definitely one of the last guys to leave every day. Working on his skill, working on his technique, and working on ways to improve, and you know, I know he’s a guy that has a competitive nature, wants to be the absolute best of the best.”