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CJ Henderson ready for opportunity with Jaguars

First-round pick excited about ‘challenge’ of stepping into starting role

Florida's CJ Henderson defends Bryan Edwards of the South Carolina Gamecocks during a 2019 game. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Florida's CJ Henderson defends Bryan Edwards of the South Carolina Gamecocks during a 2019 game. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) (2019 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The rebuild has begun with a major defensive addition.

Jacksonville’s latest roster reset started on Thursday night, with the Jaguars staying put and taking Florida cornerback CJ Henderson ninth overall in the NFL draft.

For a roster with as many holes across the board, cornerback was one of the two biggest needs. They shored up the latter with their second first-round pick at No. 20, taking linebacker/defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson.

Henderson (6-1, 204 pounds) was widely regarded as the draft’s No. 2 cornerback (Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah went third to Detroit) and his arrival is much needed.

Jacksonville’s secondary has been strafed with defections since its run to the AFC championship game two years ago. The players who started that game, AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, were both dealt since last year.

“I’m good. Yeah, I’m definitely ready to take on the challenge. I’m ready for it,” Henderson said of moving into a spot vacated by Bouye and Ramsey.

Henderson had 92 tackles, six interceptions, 22 pass breakups and four sacks in three seasons with the Gators. The knock on Henderson is his tackling ability. But he projects as a starter early, especially with Tre Herndon and Rashaan Melvin penciled in there now.

The Jaguars had been rumored to be looking to trade up.

Two hours prior to the draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Jaguars had contacted Detroit about trading up to the No. 3 spot, but that deal never materialized. A trade back never took shape either and the Jaguars stayed and fortified their secondary.

The board went according to many mock drafts, with just one surprise before Jacksonville’s pick, the Giants taking tackle Andrew Thomas out of Georgia at No. 4.

Henderson was thrilled to make it to the Jaguars and stay in-state.

“You know I feel the most comfortable with staying in Florida, that’s huge," he said. "Being able to stay close to my family and my own former college. I feel like I bring a lot to Jacksonville. … I feel like I can take out opponents and number one receivers and I plan to do that here.”

The Jaguars are coming off a 6-10 season that was arguably the most disappointing on- and off-the-field combination in franchise history. The on-field product was ragged. And the off-the-field material was one rough headline after another.

Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin drew a scathing rebuke from the NFL Players Association and was ultimately fired by owner Shad Khan. Ramsey forced his way out of town through a trade. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is in the midst of trying to do the same.

Last year’s big ticket free agent signee, Nick Foles, was dealt this offseason. Mainstays like Calais Campbell and Bouye were traded. Others, like defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and receiver Marqise Lee were cut.


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