For the second year in a row, I find myself enamored with one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the NFL Draft. For the second year in a row, I couldn’t get him in the annual SB Nation writer’s mock draft, but maybe Javon Kinlaw will still be a Falcon in real life.
This was the easiest selection I’ve made in years, though. The last time I got the player I absolutely wanted was Derek Rivers, the gifted pass rusher-turned-injury-fueled bust for New England, and this year saw Derrick Brown, Jeff Okudah, and Kinlaw go well before the Falcons picked. That left C.J. Henderson sitting there, and I didn’t take long to make that pick.
Why? Henderson is the perfect marriage of best player available (or close to it) and need for these Falcons. He’s an athletic, long, and speedy cornerback comfortable in man coverage and solid-to-terrific when pressed into zone coverage duties. He has untapped upside, comes out of the box as a prototypical Dan Quinn cornerback with his mix of skill and athletic ability, and fills a massive need for a Falcons team that has no #1 cornerback on the roster after cutting Desmond Trufant. I think he’s the second-best corner in this draft class, and thus he winds up being pretty much an ideal pick for Atlanta.
Here was Dan Kadar, the longtime guru at Mocking the Draft and SB Nation’s NFL Draft lead, weighing in on that pick.
Analysis: The Falcons made a big move this offseason, signing pass rusher Dante Fowler to a three-year, $48 million contract. It filled the team’s biggest need, but Atlanta could still use some pass rush help. There are some options here too, including K’Lavon Chaisson of LSU and Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State. Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa would be an interesting fit as well. He’s like a cross between Kinlaw and Gross-Matos in what he can do.
Henderson would be a good fit in his own right. Sheffield should be able to fill in for the departed Desmond Trufant. Henderson could play the other spot. Isaiah Oliver is more of a nickel cornerback. In Atlanta’s Cover 3 defense, Henderson could shine because of his excellent ball skills.
The greater question about this pick is what the Falcons’ defense needs more: another pass rusher or another cornerback.
Who else was available? If you preferred LSU’s Kristian Fulton you might not be thrilled with Henderson, as he was still out there, and LSU pass rusher K’Lavon Chiasson was also still on the board. In the end, as much as I like both those players, I thought Henderson was the best value and fit.
For those who want to take a trip down memory lane, here’s every mock draft pick I’ve made for the big Mocking The Draft/SB Nation annual writers’ mock, dating all the way back to 2008. I’ve had as many (or more) misses as hits over the years, but the Falcons would have had a better pass rush if I was in charge, which I guess is something. You can read the full writeup here.
Previous Falcoholic picks
2019: OT Jonah Williams
2018: DT Taven Bryan
2017: DE Derek Rivers | G Dorian Johnson
2016: DE Shaq Lawson | S Keanu Neal
2015: DE Randy Gregory | CB/S Eric Rowe
2014: LB Khalil Mack | T Morgan Moses
2013: DE Tank Carradine | CB David Amerson
2012: RB David Wilson
2011: DE/LB Justin Houston | T Marcus Gilbert
2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon
2009: ILB James Laurinitis | S Michael Hamlin
2008: T Jake Long | QB Joe Flacco | DT Kentwan Balmer | CB Tracy Porter | RB Tony Hunt