C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Birds Fans of Bleeding Green Nation, may I present for your approval: “Failing upwards: The 20Safety_Hazards Draft Story.” Now I know what you may be thinking to yourself. How did this guy get in the position to pick for the Eagles? How is it possible that a guy who, in two of the last three years, drafted players in the mid-to-high first round that ultimately went in the second round, somehow manage to win the annual BGN Draft Competition last year? I’ve been asking that question a lot myself these last few weeks in preparing for the BGN mock draft. I mean, in my defense, I did correctly predict who the Jaguars and Jets would draft the last two seasons (if you ignore what round they were taken). But during my soul searching, I have come to realize that there are three keys to my success in this mock draft competition: (1) witty writing, (2) shameless self-promotion, and (3) an obscene amount of pandering to the greatest fan base in NFL football! (Cashing in on Nick Foles nostalgia last year certainly did not hurt either, but that’s something that cannot be replicated).
So before I dive into the reasons for my pick, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. CJ Henderson is not a wide receiver. For that reason alone I am confident that my time as the Eagles draft manager will be very short lived. But before the unsilent majority rips me to shreds in the comments section, hear me out. I have my reasons.
First, if trades were allowed in this competition, I would have at least tried to to move up in the draft to select one of what I consider, and probably many people consider, the three cannot miss WR prospects of this draft: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III. But when Lamb went off the board at 5, I knew my chances at one of the three were dead in the water. Sure enough, all three were gone by 12.
Second, I am firmly in the camp that your first round pick needs to be, at a minimum, a starting caliber player, with the potential to be special. The later in the draft you go the more risks you can take. But if a team consistently misses in the first round you are forced to overcompensate in free agency to add star power to your team. With that philosophy in mind, when I looked at the rest of the field of WRs, there was no one in my view that makes the grade. Tee Higgins would probably fit the bill but he’s duplicative of what the Eagles already have in Alshon Jeffery (if he’s still here) and JJ Arcega-Whiteside (in theory). Chase Claypool, largely the same, though a little bit riskier than Higgins in my view. Jalen Reagor has boom or bust written all over him. Sure he’s fast, but his route running is questionable at best. Carson Wentz’s strength is throwing to WRs who run clean routes, and its why I believe he struggled at times last season with what was left on the field. Laviska Shenault, also has questions with his route running and his injury history. Denzel Mims also has route running issues and issues with contested catches. There was only one receiver on the board that I honestly considered at 21: Justin Jefferson. Ultimately, I just don’t love Jefferson. He put up good combine numbers but his tape looks slower. He played excellent in the slot at LSU, but struggled, or at best was inconsistent, on the outside. Jefferson is a safe pick. He won’t bust, he’ll have a role, but I think his upside is capped as a slot receiver. Moreover, if Jefferson’s value is maxed out in the slot you are taking away opportunities to utilize the offense’s current greatest position of strength: Ertz and Goedert. Find a WR who can thrive on the outside you have more options on offense. Frankly, outside the top 3, the WR position is a mixed bag.
As I sat there at 21, there are plenty of options that I’d be happy to draft in round 2 or 3, but those options are too risky to spend a first round pick on. While I get the fear that a run on WRs could put the Eagles in a difficult position later in the draft, a fear of what could happen should not force you to make a risky pick earlier. Given the large number of WR options still on the board, I am making an educated projection that the risk of a run depleting the quality WR options before the Eagles next pick is low. I just cannot justify taking a riskier pick in the first round to protect against what I consider to be a low-probability risk.
Third, my draft philosophy is a modified Best Player Available system. Looking at my draft board, I’m looking first at my own player rankings and assessment. If there is a player available that is clearly better than every other player on my board, I make the pick. For those who play fantasy football, this is basically tiered-based drafting. Second, if there is a collection of players on the board that are close in comparison, does one of those players fit a position of need. For the Eagles, I pegged four positions in order of need: WR, CB, LB, S, OL Depth (the last one not being in consideration for the first round). Finally, if there are multiple players covering multiple positions of need, what is the drop off at that position. This is ultimately what killed Justin Jefferson. This draft has an embarrassment of riches at WR that I honestly feel like we can skip the first round and still come away with one, maybe even two really good WRs in the 2nd-4th round.
And my final reason, I kind of wanted to see if Brandon’s head would explode if I passed on a WR in the official BGN community draft for a defensive player. Just kidding Brandon! You and the entire team at BGN do great work! For the record, you can see his previous opinion on my selection by clicking here.
So now that I’ve lost of the rest of you with five paragraphs of self-promotion and draft philosophy, let’s get to the question that matters: Why CJ Henderson? I’ll start with my BPA. He was easily in the collection of 4-5 players I was targeting at 21 currently left on the board. His size, speed, and intelligence make him a dangerous cover corner. He clearly fits a position of need. If you count moving Mills to safety, we need to replace both starting CBs. Granted that need was mitigated in part by trading for Darius Slay, but that still leaves the other CB position. Finally, if you look at the draft talent at CB, after Henderson, Jeff Okudah, and Kristian Fulton, the talent level at CB drops off. Even Ben Natan will attest to that. For the record, I also considered a linebacker at this pick, as I thought there were two excellent LBs on the board (Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen). I’ve always felt that the Eagles have undervalued LBs to their detriment. However, I felt the value at CB was higher and taking a CB seemed more realistic for the Eagles in round 1 then a LB.
CJ Henderson checks all the boxes in my draft philosophy. He’s a starting caliber player who has tremendous upside potential. First, he’s got a rare combination of size and speed that is very hard to come by. Although he stands at 6’1” and 204 lbs, Henderson ran a sub-4.4 40 time at the combine. Henderson was also the most consistent CB in drills. He has the size to match up with tall receivers and the speed and athleticism to keep up with speed receivers. I mean, just look at his spider chart.
At Florida, Henderson played both man and zone, inside and out, press and off-ball and did so against some of the best WR talent in the country. His speed also makes him a dangerous corner blitzer.
Here’s what ultimately put Henderson over the top for me. He excels at the thing that has been our biggest weakness as a defense: stopping the double move. Henderson has great instincts, strong vision, and excellent route recognition. He rarely bites on the double move and, if he does, he has the speed, size and wingspan to recover and make a play on the ball. As a result, Henderson typically does not require safety help over the top. Henderson’s wingspan in particular helps him to create tight windows making it difficult to complete a pass when he’s in position. He has excellent body control and soft hands making him a threat to create turnovers. Watch his highlight films, you’ll see his interceptions come at every angle (contested, jumped routes, low grabs, etc.). Over his 30 game college career, Henderson accumulated six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 20 passes defended, two forced fumbles, and four sacks.
Finally, let’s talk about how Henderson fits into Jim Schwartz defense. We’ve seen in the past that Jim Schwartz prefers to keep CBs to one side of the field unless he absolutely has to make a change. With Henderson and Slay on the field together, Schwartz may not need to move his CBs much because Henderson matches up well with any type of WR. Henderson and Slay would give Schwartz stability at the outside. This allows Schwartz to add layers and intricacies to his defense because he is not constantly changing his personnel.
Another trademark of Schwartz’s defense is his preference to generate pressure using only his front four. However, lapses in coverage have prevented the line from having the time to get to the QB without help from the blitz. This has resulted in good QBs, and sometimes even bad ones, an option to get the ball out quickly before the pass rush arrives. Having two good cover corners in Slay and Henderson would make it more difficult for QBs to get the ball out quickly to defeat the pass rush, which should only improve this season with the addition of Javon Hargrave and the return of Malik Jackson. (This was ultimately the other reason I went CB over LB).
So, let’s get to the negatives, because if Henderson was perfect he wouldn’t have fallen to 21. The biggest knock on Henderson is his tackling. And I won’t sugar coat it, it needs to improve. He had some ugly plays his junior year tackling. However, it is important to note that, while healthy most his college career, he did suffer an early season injury scare that may have contributed to the change in his physicality his junior because he was a far more physical player his Sophomore and Freshman year. If you watch his highlights, he’s not afraid to hit. In fact, some of his best plays came when he baited a throw then used his size and closing speed to break up the play. There is certainly room for Henderson to grow both as a tackler and in terms of his physicality. However, tackling is coachable. Athleticism, intelligence, and size are not. C.J. Henderson has all of the latter in spades.
The other “knock” on Henderson is he’s quiet. I get there are some who think this may ultimately keep the Eagles for drafting Henderson because Jim Schwartz likes brash, confident CBs. Personally, I’m not buying it. While I’m not entirely discounting the theory, I just don’t think Henderson lacks confidence at all. While Henderson may not run his mouth, he is a bonafide competitor who wants to be matched up against the other teams best. He’s gone on record as calling himself the best CB in the draft, so it’s hard to say he lacks confidence. Even the way he plays in coverage exudes confidence. He likes to bait throws, he likes to get his hands into passing lanes, he’s not afraid to be aggressive and jump routes. He has all the qualities of a Jim Schwartz corner, other than perhaps the mouth. If that’s the only other red flag on Henderson, you can feel very confident pulling the trigger on draft day.
Based on how this draft fell, C.J. Henderson is the best pick. He’s an elite athletic talent, at a position of need, with a starting caliber floor and a high ceiling. C.J. Henderson has the potential to be a top 10 CB in this league. To get him at 21 is a steal.
If you made it to the bottom of this post, thank you! It was an honor and privilege drafting for the Eagles this season and I am sure, barring a miracle in the polls, this will be my last time picking for them. (There’s only so many times you can ride the BDN wave to victory). To whomever has the privilege to draft for us next season, I wish you the best of luck.
To all of the BGN, I will end this post by saying: Stay Safe, Dallas Sucks, and GO BIRDS!
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2020 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Bengals (grantspectations): QB Joe Burrow
2) Washington (ablesser88): EDGE Chase Young
3) Lions (CMG97): CB Jeff Okudah
4) Giants (selgae aihpledalihp): LB Isaiah Simmons
5) Dolphins (dceagles): WR CeeDee Lamb
6) Chargers (dapeltz13): QB Tua Tagovailoa
7) Panthers (wardbell92): DT Derrick Brown
8) Cardinals (drc242): OT Mekhi Becton
9) Jaguars (Palaniappan K M): OT Tristan Wirfs
10) Browns (WentzAndFolesFan): WR Jerry Jeudy
11) Jets (Dr_Horrible): OT Jedrick Wills
12) Raiders (Phillysolo): WR Henry Ruggs III
13) 49ers (eagles0132): OT Andrew Thomas
14) Buccaneers (BuckeyedEagles): DT Javon Kinlaw
15) Broncos (J. Wil): S Xavier McKinney
16) Falcons (Kephas): EDGE A.J. Epenesa
17) Cowboys (PhillyBirdGang): S Grant Delpit
18) Dolphins (dshelton5): QB Justin Herbert
19) Raiders (fredhugo): CB Kristian Fulton
20) Jaguars (ItownBallers22): EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson
21) Eagles (20Safety_Hazards): CB C.J. Henderson
22) Vikings (SadJediShark):
23) Patriots (Phoenix X Minimus)
24) Saints (big DUB):
25) Vikings (MrW254):
26) Dolphins (SemperFilly):
27) Seahawks (mattywils):
28) Ravens (Dirtybirdy47):
29) Titans (mr_england):
30) Packers (Nishant R SambhiReddy):
31) 49ers (Fly Like An Eagle):
32) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Eagles should pick in the 2020 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Eagles select at No. 21?
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2020 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft
1) Bengals: QB Joe Burrow
2) Washington: EDGE Chase Young
3) Lions: CB Jeff Okudah
4) Giants: LB Isaiah Simmons
5) Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa
6) Chargers: QB Justin Herbert
7) Panthers: DT Derrick Brown
8) Cardinals: OT Mekhi Becton
9) Jaguars: OT Tristan Wirfs
10) Browns: OT Andrew Thomas
11) Jets: OT Jedrick Wills
12) Raiders: WR CeeDee Lamb
13) 49ers: WR Jerry Jeudy
14) Buccaneers: DT Javon Kinlaw
15) Broncos: WR Henry Ruggs III
16) Falcons: EDGE A.J. Epenesa
17) Cowboys: CB C.J. Henderson
18) Dolphins: OT Josh Jones
19) Raiders: CB Kristian Fulton
20) Jaguars: EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson