The Jacksonville Jaguars Fumbled a Former 1st-Round Pick Who Gets a Fresh Start With a Much Better Team

The Jacksonville Jaguars are going nowhere fast. As if the disappointing 0-3 start to the 2021 season wasn’t bad enough, the team recently traded away another former first-round draft pick. The head-scratching move is just the latest addition to a list of situations the front office has mishandled.

The Jaguars gave up way too soon, and it may end up being a move they’ll regret.

The Jaguars drafted C.J. Henderson in 2020

Former Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson in action
Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson plays against the Titans | Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted cornerback C.J. Henderson with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Florida. Many scouts and analysts were excited about Henderson coming out of college.

The Miami, Florida native recorded 93 tackles, 20 pass breakups, six interceptions, and four sacks in three seasons with the Gators. He possessed ideal size for the position, as well as elite athleticism.

Henderson was one of the better cover guys in the entire draft class, per The Draft Network. It appeared Jacksonville drafted him to be a cornerstone of its defense.

The Florida product started eight games as a rookie, recording 36 tackles, six pass breakups, one interception, and one forced fumble. He started two games for the Jaguars in 2021 before being traded.

Henderson is immensely talented, but it’s evident that something soured in the relationship between the Jaguars and the young cornerback.

The Jaguars gave up way too soon

The Jaguars traded C.J. Henderson to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round pick. It’s safe to say Jacksonville’s end of the trade holds the lesser value.

The front office invested a top-10 pick in Henderson. While he hasn’t been a star, he’s better than the other options on the Jags’ roster. The team added former Seahawks corner Shaquill Griffin, who was supposed to form a solid tandem playing opposite Henderson.

The Jaguars drafted Georgia’s Tyson Campbell in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Drafting another young corner so early all but sealed Henderson’s fate in Jacksonville.

If the former SEC standout wasn’t the best fit in Jacksonville, the front office did not do their job. If they scouted well, they would’ve been able to sniff out whatever red flags emerged in the little time that Henderson played there.

The franchise has recorded three consecutive losing seasons and is heading toward a fourth. They can ill-afford to waste a first-round draft pick.

Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey, and Dante Fowler Jr. are former Jags’ first-round picks with new teams. This isn’t the first time the franchise has mishandled talent, and it probably won’t be the last.

C.J. Henderson should thrive with the Panthers

Please don’t mistake the Jaguars giving up on C.J. Henderson for him not having talent. He has the skills, but clearly, Jacksonville wasn’t a good fit for him.

Now, Henderson joins the 3-0 Carolina Panthers, who have a defense that’s surprised people so far in 2021. The 23-year-old’s arrival comes at the perfect time. The Panthers placed rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn on injured reserve with a broken foot.

Carolina boasts the NFL’s top-ranked defense through three weeks, allowing just 573 totals yards and 30 points to opposing offenses. Phil Snow is the second-oldest defensive coordinator in the league at 65 years old, but his old-school wisdom has helped build a formidable unit.

With young players like Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson, and Jeremy Chinn, the Panthers have a bright future on defense. A duo of Henderson and Horn could potentially solidify this defense as one of the NFL’s elite for years to come.

Henderson is already feeling at home in Carolina. “My experience so far has been good. It’s player-oriented here, and liking it so far,” he said. “For me, I feel like it’s a fresh new start for me. Just to start over and get things back on track. Just to get things rolling again.”

He didn’t work out with the Jaguars but appears to be entering a much better situation with the Panthers.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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