Does C.J. Henderson make sense for the New York Jets?
The 2021 New York Jets look substantially better than their 2020 counterparts. Energy has been restored to the organization through a new starting quarterback and a new head coach. Plus, there are clear talent upgrades at the wide receiver, running back, offensive line, and defensive line positions.
The one position where the team has arguably declined is at cornerback. And yes, you better believe Joe Douglas should at least inquire into acquiring C.J. Henderson’s services.
This past offseason, the Jets allowed underrated slot cornerback Brian Poole to walk in free agency. They only addressed the position with three Day 3 picks in the NFL draft. The team didn’t bring in a true veteran presence and only has one player at the position older than 25 (special teams ace Justin Hardee). None of the players in the group have were drafted earlier than the fifth round, either.
New York’s cornerback woes bring us down to Jacksonville.
Yesterday, rumors broke out speculating that the Jaguars may be intent on dealing their 2020 first-round selection, cornerback C.J. Henderson.
A surprise: Multiple team execs believe #Jaguars corner C.J. Henderson — the ninth overall pick in 2020 — is available via trade. Jacksonville has given impression in some league circles that it's shopping Henderson, a high-pedigree player one year into rookie deal.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 8, 2021
It’s surprising to see a rumor like this after only one season of work. But new head coaches have a tendency of moving on from players they didn’t draft. This may be in conjunction with other issues in Jacksonville.
After a fantastic Week 1 of the 2020 season, the rest of Henderson’s rookie year was rough. He would suffer a groin injury early in the season before ultimately ending the year on injured reserve. Henderson would only play eight games for a Jaguars team that went 1-15.
Per PFF, Henderson raked in a coverage grade of 58.3, good for 61st out of 98 qualified cornerbacks (min. 250 coverage snaps).
On the surface, that’s the furthest thing from impressive. But that was the highest coverage grade by a cornerback on the Jaguars and the fifth-highest by a rookie cornerback. When you realize Henderson accomplished those things despite missing the second half of the season and having his rookie training camp annihilated by COVID-19, it makes the number easier to swallow.
Get Started: Learn More About Becoming A Jet X Member
Rookie cornerbacks are notorious for experiencing a learning curve at the position. There is a lot of nuance that goes into coverage ability, and being on a terrible team can certainly alter perspective. For Jets fans, that sentiment should be echoed after seeing numerous players falter in New York only to excel elsewhere.
Despite having a rough 2020, there’s no debate that Henderson is an incredible talent. Per Player Profiler, Henderson ranks at the 91st percentile among cornerbacks with his 4.39 40-yard dash. His “speed score” – which combines speed and size – places him at the 98th percentile in speed score amongst his peers.
Henderson was a consensus top-20 prospect in the 2020 NFL draft for a reason.
CJ Henderson only allowed 18 catches on 343 coverage snaps last season and gave up exactly ZERO touchdowns 😳 pic.twitter.com/FUlfdHsEvf
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 5, 2019
Considering the state of the New York cornerback room, it would be logical for Douglas to inquire.
Related Article: Jets’ Jason Pinnock could be a late-round starting cornerback (Film)
Even though Robert Saleh is expected to run more of a zone-heavy scheme (Henderson fits better in man coverage), Henderson would be the only cornerback on the team who could hold their own in man coverage on a consistent basis.
Saleh insists on looking for players in the secondary that can step up on third-downs, and Henderson has shown in limited time to be that player at Florida and briefly with the Jaguars.
Rookie CB CJ Henderson ends the game with the huge stop on 4th down
— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) September 13, 2020
Take nothing away from Austin, Hall, and the rest of the Jets’ cornerback room, but they don’t have the All-Pro potential of a player like Henderson, who is still only 22 years old. Pair him with a defensive-minded head coach like Saleh (and a great cornerbacks coach like Tony Oden) and the potential is unlimited.
Potential price tag
Given Henderson’s age and potential, it’s unlikely that he will be a cheap asset to acquire. The Jets, however, are one of the few teams with the capital to make a move if they wished to do so.
New York has the Seattle Seahawks’ 2021 first-round pick courtesy of the Jamal Adams trade. That could be an excellent chip in negotiation. That pick, a later pick, and a player – or some combination of these three – may be the potential price tag to get Henderson from Jacksonville.
Personally, if I’m Douglas, I at least inquire about the price tag for Henderson. Because of his age, potential, and the Jets’ massive need at the position, Henderson is a perfect target for the Jets to look at adding to their team this year.