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Why cornerback C.J. Henderson being available at pick 17 is highly unlikely

The Florida cornerback would be a great fit, but will he still be on the board at pick 17?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you go by free agency losses, the Dallas Cowboys should look at three positions to address with their first pick in the draft. After losing Byron Jones, Randall Cobb, and Robert Quinn, it feels like the Cowboys will select a cornerback, wide receiver, or defensive end at pick 17.

For about a month now, one of the names most linked to Dallas at pick 17 is cornerback C.J. Henderson out of Florida. Henderson would be the perfect fit for the Cowboys. He could step in from day one and start at cornerback opposite Chidobe Awuzie, allowing Jourdan Lewis to be your slot man, and also allowing Anthony Brown and Maurice Canady to battle it out for the fourth spot.

You could make an argument if the Cowboys added Henderson, he would immediately become the best corner on their roster. The 6’1” Florida product has 4.4 speed, is outstanding in man coverage, and has a knack for making plays on the ball, something Dallas has lacked at the cornerback spot for quite some time.

It seems pretty simple. Henderson is the perfect fit, Dallas should take him at pick 17 and start off the draft with a bang. There’s just one problem, Henderson is likely going to be gone before Dallas even gets a chance to think about selecting him.

Good cornerback play is at a premium in the National Football League today, just take a look at how much money Byron Jones got from Miami. With all the talented receivers in the league today, teams need good play from their secondary. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, there are quite a few teams in front of them in this draft who could really benefit from selecting Henderson.

There is virtually no shot Henderson will get selected in the top six picks, but once you get to number seven and start to go down the list things get interesting. Here is a quick breakdown of every team in front of Dallas in the draft and how likely they would be to snatch Henderson away from the Cowboys.

Pick Seven - Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers had a complete overhaul this season. They hired Matt Rhule from Baylor to be their head coach, signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal, and recently just released former MVP quarterback Cam Newton. Carolina seems like they will be selecting a defender with the seventh pick, but it still seems a bit too high for Henderson. They do have Donte Jackson, a decently talented corner as their number one guy, and in all likelihood, a guy like Derrick Brown will be too hard to pass up on for a reach at the corner spot. The chances Henderson ends up in Carolina are virtually none unless they trade back.

Pick Eight - Arizona Cardinals

Let’s keep this one short and simple. The Cardinals are not drafting a cornerback at pick eight. After acquiring DeAndre Hopkins this offseason and bolstering their receiver group, it is a virtual lock the Cardinals take an offensive lineman with this pick. After taking Kyler Murray number one overall last year, their number one priority need to be protecting him, and they have a great chance to do this with the talented offensive lineman in this draft.

Pick Nine - Jacksonville Jaguars

Here is where things get interesting. Two years ago the Jaguars had one of the best cornerback tandems in all of football. You could have made an argument that Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye were the best one-two corner group in the entire league. As we sit here today, neither is currently on the Jaguars roster. Jacksonville traded both away in the past year, leaving a hole at the cornerback spot. This is the first spot Henderson has a real chance to go in this draft. I still believe it is a bit high, and Jacksonville may prefer to go with a lineman or someone like Javon Kinlaw at this spot, but it is not at all out of the realm of possibility they could take Henderson. Percentage-wise, let’s put it at about 20%, but this begins the run of teams who Dallas will have to look out for.

Pick Ten - Cleveland Browns

Let’s this one short and sweet as well, the Browns are almost 100% going to select an offensive lineman with this pick. Much like Arizona, they too have a former number one overall pick they need to protect at quarterback, and will have a great chance to select a talented tackle at this pick.

Pick Eleven - New York Jets

The New York Jets are really one of the biggest wildcards of this entire draft. Besides quarterback, running back, and safety, the Jets have a plausible need to select any other position with their first-round pick. Cornerback has to be one of the higher positions of need for the Jets. At the moment, they have Pierre Desir and Arthur Maulet as their starting cornerbacks. Henderson would fit very well in New York and could slide in and take over one of those starting spots. The question is, will the Jets go offense instead? There is a good chance all of the top three receivers will still be available when the Jets pick, and likely at least one of the top four tackles. New York will have to decide if they believe Henderson is more valuable than possibly Jerry Judy or Andrew Thomas, so let’s put the percent chance Henderson ends up in New York at about a 35% mark.

Pick Twelve - Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders are a team, much like the Jets, who could go in a variety of ways with their first-round pick. Heck, there’s at least a shot they could even go with a quarterback here. Receiver makes the most sense here, and it just seems like Henry Ruggs III, with his outstanding speed, makes too much sense here not to happen. If they do, however, decide to go defense, it likely will not be for a cornerback. The Raiders selected Trayvon Mullen out of Clemson with the 40th pick in last year’s draft, and have some other young talent at the position. Their corner group is not great by any means, but the needs elsewhere will likely force the Raiders to address the corner position later in the draft. You can’t say there is no chance, but no more than about a 25% shot Henderson ends up in Vegas.

Pick Thirteen - San Francisco 49ers

It’s extremely rare you see a team who went to the Super Bowl the past season picking this high in the first round, but that is the situation the 49ers find themselves in this year. San Francisco traded defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts to move up to the 13th pick in this year’s draft. Now outside of Richard Sherman, the 49ers really don’t have much else at the cornerback spot, but the overwhelming need is for them to fix their offense. Deebo Samuel is really the only quality wide receiver they have, and they need to get Jimmy Garoppolo another weapon. San Francisco seems to be in a great position here to take a receiver with this pick or trade down with a team that wants to come up for a player. Henderson would make the 49ers’ defense down-right scary, but they just have too good of a unit overall to take a defensive player this high if a receiver is still on the board. We’ll put the chances Henderson ends up with San Francisco at pick 13 at about 15%.

Pick Fourteen- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the big winners of this free agency period. They replaced Jamies Winston with Tom Brady, which is basically like going from driving Honda to a Lamborghini. Talent-wise, Brady isn’t the Lambo he once used to be, but he still is arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time and makes the Buccaneers much more competitive. Priority number one for the Bucs will be protecting their investment, and an offensive lineman makes tons of sense at pick 14 for Tampa Bay. Out of the top four linemen in the draft, it’s pretty likely one of them will be there at pick 14. If all the top linemen are gone, cornerback could be a spot Tampa addresses. Currently, their starters at corner would be Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting. It’s safe to say they have a decent need, and if the top offensive linemen are gone, this could be a spot for Henderson to land. Let’s put the percent chances Henderson ends up in Tampa at about 30%.

Pick Fifteen - Denver Broncos

Now we get to the point where if Dallas wants Henderson, they will have to trade up in front of these two teams. Denver lost cornerback Chris Harris Jr. this offseason to the Los Angeles Chargers but replaced him with former Jaguar A.J. Bouye. Despite this, there is a good shot the Broncos address cornerback with their first-round pick. By time Denver gets on the board, there is a very good chance all of the top three receivers have already been selected. Denver already has an outstanding pass rush with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, so if receiver is not an option, they could pivot to cornerback. Paring Henderson with Bouye would instantly give them a formidable starting corner group. If Denver is not 100% sold on Henderson, this is a spot where someone could trade up to land him as well. All this hinges on the top three receivers being off the board, but if they are, the chances Henderson winds up with Denver or someone else at this pick is about 65%.

Pick Sixteen - Atlanta Falcons

If C.J. Henderson makes it to pick 16, it’s almost impossible the Atlanta Falcons do not take him. For years the Falcons’ secondary has always been a mess, and things are no better right now. After Desmond Trufant’s departure, the Falcons have a glaring need at the cornerback spot. Trufant played in just nine games for the Falcons in 2019 but still led their team in interceptions. Henderson would be the perfect fit for the Falcons, and it just would make no sense to pass up on him if he is available when they pick. If Henderson makes it to pick sixteen, the percent chance he ends up being selected is at roughly 90%.

If C.J. Henderson really is the Cowboys guy, it’s likely they will have to trade up to get him. Dallas will need to jump Denver and Atlanta to pick 14 at the least if they want to select Henderson. He would be the perfect first-round pick for what the Cowboys need, but unfortunately there is not a great shot he ends up a Dallas Cowboys on April 23.

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