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Henderson declares for draft, will skip bowl game

December 6, 2019
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As anticipated, Gators junior cornerback CJ Henderson announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon that he will forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. In a more surprising development, he also announced that he will not play in the team’s bowl game to prepare for the draft process and alleviate the risk of injury, a move that’s become increasingly popular around the country in recent years.

“I want to thank the University of Florida for the amazing opportunity to attend a prestigious university,” he wrote in his announcement. “I also want to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.

“My time as a Gator has been a dream come true, and I am truly blessed to be in this position. There are too many people to thank, but so many from the Florida program have helped me along the way. The best part about being a Gator is that they will be there for me the rest of my life. I’ve had so many memories and great times with teammates, coaches and staff that I will remember forever. I will miss that feeling of running out of the Swamp on Saturday to 90,000 strong, but I know the Gator Nation is behind me.”

In a recruiting upset, Henderson signed with UF in 2017 over his hometown Miami Hurricanes. A lightning-fast runner, he primarily played running back at Columbus High School but adjusted to cornerback very quickly. He returned an interception for a touchdown in each of his first two games in 2017, making him the first true freshman in school history to do so in consecutive games. He was named to the Coaches’ All-SEC Team and the Associated Press’ All-SEC Second Team.

He started all 13 games in 2018 and recorded two interceptions and a team-high seven pass breakups. His interception against South Carolina helped seal a 17-point comeback win. He was named Second Team All-SEC by the league’s coaches.

His 2019 season was a bit underwhelming, at least compared to the lofty expectations he earned for himself in his first two seasons. He failed to intercept a pass, although he still led the team with 11 pass breakups. He missed most of four games with a sprained ankle early in the season. When he returned, he struggled a bit, giving up several long completions and dropping a pair of interceptions.

Still, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Henderson was the best player he’s ever coached earlier this season.

Despite the setbacks this season, CBS’ Ryan Wilson has him going 24th overall to the Minnesota Vikings in his mock draft, while Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has him going 17th overall to the Indianapolis Colts.

That kind of money was simply too much for Henderson to refuse. He should become the latest in a long line of Gators defensive backs to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Without him, the Gators will likely lean on Trey Dean and Kaiir Elam at cornerback.

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Henderson declares for draft, will skip bowl game

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