Florida Gators defensive back C.J. Henderson (1) is a reported Falcons target in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons rumored to be trading up to draft C.J. Henderson 

The Falcons need a cornerback after they released Desmond Trufant

When the Falcons need a player, they trade up to get him during the Thomas Dimitroff era. 

This draft trend dates to Sam Baker in 2008, to Julio Jones in 2011, to Trufant in 2013, to Takk McKinley in 2018 and to Kaleb McGary in 2019.

Five times Dimitrofff has traded up into the first round to get desired talent. 

Baker was fine when healthy. The Jones trade has worked out fabulously.

Trufant was a solid starter, who went to one Pro Bowl. McKinley has yet to blossom as a pass-rusher, and McGary led the NFL with 13 sacks allowed last season.

Basically, trading up is Dimitroff’s favorite move.

Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell, who formerly worked with the Falcons, is sitting there with the ninth pick, and a Falcons move to that spot could help them land Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson, who is the second rated cornerback in the draft. Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is the top rated cornerback.   

So, it’s no surprise that NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has linked the Falcons to moving up to draft Henderson, who could still be on the board when they are set to select with the 16th overall pick

“I would probably take the corner from Florida,” SiriusXM Radio analyst Gil Brandt said Tuesday when asked about the Falcons. “He’s a pretty good football player.”

The Falcons could have taken LSU cornerback Greedy Williams last year, but elected to select offensive guard Chris Lindstrom and McGary in the first round. 

Williams and Henderson both have the same issues. Their willingness to tackle. 

“There is a little bit of (a question) about how good he is against the run or how good he will tackle,” Brandt said. “In today’s game when we are throwing so many screens, you better have somebody who can tackle.”

But because of Henderson’s coverage skills in man and zone defense, the Falcons may look past that little tackling issue. 

“I like Henderson a lot,” Brandt said. “I think he’ll be a player that will play for a long time and a good character guy.”

Henderson declared for the NFL draft after his junior season. He finished his career with 92 tackles,  22 pass breakups, six interceptions, four sacks and seven tackles for loss over 34 games.

Henderson must learn to speak up. 

“The only thing wrong about is that he’s really a quiet guy,” Brandt said. “It’s hard to get through to him so to speak. He barely speaks above a whisper, but he plays real loud.” 

The Jaguars’ pick is worth 1,350 points on the trade-value chart. The Falcons’ pick is worth 1,000 points, so there is a 350-point gap. The Falcons already traded one of their second-round picks to the Ravens. That 55th pick was worth exactly 350 points. 

The Falcons’ remaining second-round pick (47th) is worth 430 points, but they need to keep that one to get the guard/center. 

Perhaps Caldwell will take a third and next year’s second since they appear to be tanking to try to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The Falcons must believe Henderson, who’s 6-foot and 204 pounds, would be a good replacement for Trufant. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the scouting combine. 

He played under former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at Florida.

“He mixed up a lot of coverages,” Henderson said. “So, it was very different for us, compared to freshman year, mostly one coverage. So, it was very different.”

The Falcons have made it clear they are looking for a cornerback.  (Which may mean it’s a smoke screen, too.) 

“Yeah, well, I would say No. 1, positions that you’re always looking at and bringing into it is the outside guys at corners and defensive lineman and pass rush,” Dimitroff said. “Those are positions that you want to keep digging on and going towards.

“As we’re going through that, we're obviously looking at that and free agency. As we get in here in the next few weeks into the draft and after the draft, that'll still be a position that we're looking for.”

The Falcons re-signed veteran reserve Blidi Wreh-Wilson and have right cornerback Isaiah Oliver and nickel back Kendall Shefffield. 

“We’re excited about the progress that Sheff and Isaiah made,” Dimitroff said.

But neither projects to the No. 1 cornerback in a division that now features quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. 

“What we’ll have to figure out as coaches, is oftentimes you play with five defensive backs, and what does the nickel look like and the outside corners look like,” Dimitroff said. “We tried Sheffield there. Certainly, thought he answered the challenge inside. We’ll find the best combination once we get back and rolling together.”

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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