Jets Must Call About ‘Available’ 2020 First-Round Cornerback Talent

C.J. Henderson

Getty Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson may be available according to sources around the NFL.

Stop the presses New York Jets fans! According to multiple team executives, the Jacksonville Jaguars just announced that their 2020 first-round pick (number nine overall) is “available via trade.”

ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler was first on the story.

Naturally, every general manager around the league picked up the phone last night and made a call to Jags GM Trent Baalke. If they haven’t, they should.

This isn’t a Jeff Gladney situation where you have to worry about legal issues. Aside from a recent bout with COVID-19, C.J. Henderson has no immediate red flags. He’s a high-talent prospect that is entering his age-23 season on a rookie contract that Jacksonville has already paid about 64% of.

The Arizona Cardinals were listed as an optimal landing spot, but the Jets are not far behind ranked third on Pro Football Focus’ top candidates via trade.

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Jets Are Primed to Steal Henderson on a Bargain

A friend of mine was just telling me yesterday that in life if something looks too good to be true, it generally isn’t.

No question, the spidey senses start tingling when you see last year’s ninth overall pick hit the trade block, but I’m having a hard time finding a reason the Jets shouldn’t target Henderson.

Although the cornerback is used to more man coverage look compared to Robert Saleh’s Cover-3 scheme, his initial NFL scouting report from Lance Zierlein matches a ton of the physical traits that Joe Douglas and Saleh have looked for when building their secondary.

The draft analyst described him as a “silky smooth boundary cornerback with mirror-and-match footwork and the agility and athleticism to stay connected to routes.” Zierlein also noted that Henderson “has [the] NFL recovery burst and the long speed to track vertical routes downfield,” something necessary in Cover-3.

At a long 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame, the Jaguars sophomore is basically a higher-ceiling version of 2021 Jets fifth-rounder Jason Pinnock (6-foot, 205-pounds), who we labeled as a perfect scheme fit for Saleh after the draft.

The only negative is Henderson’s dedication to the game. There’s no doubting his ability but Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network once scouted the Florida product as a player with some “character issues,” elaborating that “[Henderson] possesses tremendous upside and could develop into a starter if the coaching staff can keep his focus on the field and he matures as a person.”

The second-year pro recently missed Jacksonville’s intrasquad scrimmage for “personal reasons.”

There is some concern here, but I have no doubt that if anyone can reignite the passion within this gifted athlete, it’s Coach Saleh.

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Florida Gators Connection?

There’s not necessarily a known reason as to why, but Douglas seems to love former Florida-area prospects. The Jets have several Florida Gators alumni on the roster, in particular, and Henderson could add to those ranks.

Here is the list of Florida products on Gang Green as of now.

Henderson was both born in Florida and a Gators’ product during his collegiate career. Based on those qualifications, he may have even been on Douglas’ radar during his initial draft with the franchise.

The Jets ended up taking Mekhi Becton at number 11 but the cornerback would have filled a different need at the time.

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Do the Jets Need Henderson?

I’ve backed this young crew of cornerbacks more than most and they impressed during the Green & White scrimmage on August 7, but the short answer is still yes.

Henderson would immediately become the most talented CB on the Jets roster, being that Bryce Hall currently holds that title (lower rank in same 2020 draft class). He would also fit in, based on the Florida connection with so many Green & White players on the roster.

Most of all, the Jets are well-positioned to outbid competing offers. They have two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and one third-round pick in 2022 after trading away Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold.

I doubt they would have to give up a first for Henderson with the Jags willing to move on after one season, but either the Jets’ or Carolina’s second-rounder could get this deal done.

Looking ahead to 2022, many mock drafts have Douglas selecting a cornerback with a top 10 pick in the first round, assuming the Jets earn a top 10 status. The two likely candidates are Derek Stingley Jr. and Kaiir Elam (another Florida product) in what is considered to be a loaded CB class.

A Henderson acquisition would give Douglas options. If he returns to his first-round form in this system, you don’t have to spend a 2022 first on a corner. If he looks shaky, you’re still adding a former top prospect on the cheap and you could double-down and take another CB next year since the class is stacked with options.

You can never bring in too much talent at any area of need. Henderson is the perfect example of that theory.

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