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2020 NFL Draft rumors: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. hears Falcons discussing trade up with Jaguars for C.J. Henderson

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It’s the most exact rumor we’ve heard thus far.

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With the 2020 NFL Draft just a day away, the rumor mill is about to start pumping out its hottest tidbits of the year, and you know the Atlanta Falcons will come up at some point.

On his Tuesday First Draft podcast on draft props, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., one of best-known draft analysts out there, shared a pretty exact rumor about the Falcons and their draft plans, including a trade-up target and a player being considered.

Apparently, Kiper hears the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars are discussing a trade that would send Atlanta the ninth-overall pick. At that spot, the Falcons would indeed take Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson, perhaps the hottest name being linked currently to the Falcons.

“I keep hearing, [co-host Chris Sprow], that [Jacksonville] could make a trade at 9 and go down to 16 with Atlanta, Atlanta jump up to get Henderson, and Jacksonville moves down to 16, and they have 16 and 20,” Kiper Jr. said on the podcast.

Now, Kiper Jr. mentions first the Jacksonville could take Henderson themselves, and they may be so inclined to do so with corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye now elsewhere. They could also want to grab a top receiver at the spot as well, taking advantage of having their pick of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III.

He later in the podcast says he thinks Henderson will go in the top 12 regardless, with the Las Vegas Raiders another possibility for the corner.

The trade itself is a pretty exact, if noncommittal, rumor from Kiper Jr., and it’d meet a lot of the reports we’ve seen as of late, that the Falcons are plotting up a big jump into the top 10, that the team wants a top-flight corner, and that Henderson has the interest of the franchise.

If the trade for Atlanta actually happens, it’s not quite as dramatic as a higher jump-up to get a guy like Ohio St. CB Jeff Okudah, Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons or Auburn DT Derrick Brown (the latter two get mentioned as possibilities for Carolina by Kiper Jr.), but it’s still a slide up the board to get one of the draft’s most vaunted talents.

The good news is a jump that high wouldn’t be as expensive as a jump to get one of the true blue chip guys, with the draft value at 350 points difference between Picks 9 and 16.

The Falcons could just bite their tongues in this scenario and send over the 2020 second-round pick, which would probably be enough for the rebuilding Jags, or they could send a 2020 third-round pick and the 2021 third as well, and maybe get back a late pick for Saturday in either scenario. The latter scenario would be nice, for it’d allow the Falcons to perhaps trade back in the second round and maybe recoup the third.

If the team truly believes Henderson to be a shutdown corner, you could argue it’s fair and defensible compensation for the Falcons to make.

Henderson has his fans and detractors in the online draft community, with tackling seeming to be the biggest knock. But Dimitroff hasn’t drafted a corner in the first round besides Desmond Trufant in 2013, and to be very fair to TD, it was a pretty darn good pick for a good number of years, even though Trufant has since been released.

One thing to know: the Falcons haven’t actually pulled the lever on a legitimately big first-round trade since Trufant (they only jumped up a few for Takk McKinley in 2017), and there’s a good chance TD will just get gun shy, not find the terms he likes and stay where he is at 16 and take a (hopefully) good player there.

It won’t be too much longer before we know the answer, though, with the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft (finally) getting underway Thursday night. We’ll see who dons the Falcons draft hat then.