The Chiefs won a Super Bowl with a group of corners that not many people had faith in to start the season. As it currently stands, they have Charvarius Ward, Rashad Fenton, and Alex Brown (who didn’t play much this season) under contract for next year. The corner position is going to be an area of need for the Chiefs in the draft, and with Mahomes’ contract and possibly Jones’ as well, they will need to start drafting and developing corners to avoid renting high-price-tagged free agents.
Ward and Fenton played very well for the Chiefs this season, and Fenton surprised me in that regard. That’s the kind of sixth-round draft pick that is extremely valuable to the Chiefs now. But they hold the 32nd pick in this year’s draft by way of winning the Super Bowl, and I believe they will be looking at corners early and perhaps often if they are unable to get any cheaper free agents into Kansas City.
CJ Henderson, out of Florida, is the third-ranked corner in the 2020 draft and the 24th overall prospect according to The Draft Network. The draft isn’t an exact science and it’s entirely possible that Henderson could drop to the Chiefs at 32. Greedy Williams was one of the most talked about corners leading up to the draft in 2019 and he dropped into the second round. Anything can happen in the draft.
Henderson is 6’1 with long arms and great long speed, enough to keep up with most receivers at the NFL level. He also has the recovery speed that allows him to take some stabs at the line of scrimmage and make up for it if he misses. He does his best work in man coverage but had been getting more comfortable in zone as the season rounded out. He does a good job of sticking with receivers in man, and when the ball is thrown he attacks the catch point well.
He still has some filling out to do, as you can see on the clips, he is lanky in the sense that he’s a bit skinny, but coaches and training staffs in the NFL will help him in that regard. That “stab” is something he is quite good at, and while he will miss from time to time most times he lines it up and times it well, which is extremely useful to throw receivers’ timing off. But his most useful trait is his hip fluidity.
Getting into the NFL, this is going to be his greatest weapon. The ability to move with a receiver in the short area between the two. Here, he moves with the receiver on his fake to the right but then as he moves back to the left inside he is able to turn his hips around and move with him. There is no wasted movement, and he does it so seamlessly that it looks very clean even on film. Sticks right in the receiver’s hip pocket along his route.
This is the type of thing that Spags will want to have in a corner, because with as much as he likes to blitz it’s useful to have corners that you can trust on an island. That allows for the blitz to get there while the corners shut down the receivers. This is the kind of thing Henderson excels at, especially one on one.
This is Henderson’s complete profile and in Florida’s biggest game he had one of the best plays of his season. He’s playing man coverage with no help over top against Ja’marr Chase. The top three wide receivers for LSU last season are all going to be in the NFL soon, so there is no easy task among them. Chase releases and Henderson turns to run with him but Chase just gets a step on him headed into the end zone. This is where we get to witness his recovery speed paired with his ball location. Chase has to slow slightly when the ball gets there and that’s where Henderson attacks the catch point and shows off some athleticism, timing his jump perfectly to make this an incompletion.
This is the pinnacle of what I think Henderson could be in the NFL, using all of his skills and allowing him to play man coverage is where he thrives. But no prospect is perfect and Henderson has a few things he needs to work on, mostly in run support and tackling. I watched four games of his from 2019, and he takes some of the worst angles for tackling I have ever seen, some of which I think were on purpose to avoid taking hits.
This is the biggest problem and challenge he faces in the NFL, he will be asked to contribute on defense and you HAVE to be able to wrap up and take an offensive player to the ground. He goes for the running backs legs and misses, who then breaks one last tackle and runs for a touchdown. That is the kind of situation he needs to step up in; when you’re the last resort, the tackle has to be made — and he would go out of his way to avoid contact if he didn’t need to.
But the attached clip of him making the tackle on a third down is proof that while he may go out of his way and create bad angles for tackles, he has the play recognition and ability to engage in situations where the team needs a stop like on this third down. His “click and close” is above average and if he can learn to wrap up and consistently make plays like this, he has the skills to become a pro-bowl-type corner in the NFL. Perhaps bulking up a bit will help him gain the confidence needed to tackle well.
Henderson makes a lot of sense for the Chiefs if he’s there at 32, but who really knows how the draft will fall? All I know is that the current Chiefs coaching staff has the ability to take the strengths of all their players and get the most out of them. He would be a good fit next to Ward on the outside in this defense, and with those two playing man coverage and doing it well, it could really allow the Chiefs to get creative with their blitzes. I look forward to seeing him at the combine in a few weeks.