NBC Sports Bay Area will preview the NFL Draft with a look at the 49ers’ top needs, profiles of prospects that might fit their needs, along with some hidden gems. In this installment we profile Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson.

Through most of the pre-draft process, it seemed that Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah was the consensus No. 1 cornerback prospect.

But that might not be entirely accurate, one general manager told Peter King of NBC Sports.

“I bet 40 percent of the teams in the league have C.J. Henderson higher on their boards than Okudah,” the GM told King. “Better cover guy.”

The 49ers could be in the market to select a cornerback in the first round for the first time since Mike Rumph in 2002. And Henderson or Okudah could be options at No. 13 overall.

“They would be getting an extremely competitive guy, who is passionate about the game and who is going to give his best effort on every single play,” Henderson said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

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Henderson is an elite athlete with the size and speed that NFL teams desire. His time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash was significantly faster than the other top cornerbacks at the combine.

Henderson was a three-year starter who registered six interceptions in his first two college seasons. He had a career-best 11 passes broken up as a junior but did not have an interception. He turned pro following his junior season.

 

He is a smooth athlete who is adept at mirroring receivers in coverage. The knock on Henderson is his tackling – an area of his game he believes is better than advertised.

“I have a passion for the game, and I'm a good tackler as well,” he said. “That's not being said a lot.”

[RELATEDRichard Sherman's age could prompt 49ers to draft CB]

The 49ers have an unanswered question at cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman, who was named to his fifth career Pro Bowl last season. Sherman, who enters the final year of his contract, has the left side locked down.

Ahkello Witherspoon was a third-round draft pick in 2017, but he has yet to assert himself. Undrafted Emmanuel Moseley ended last season as a starter in his second NFL season.

Right cornerback remains the only position on the 49ers' defense that lacks a proven starter.

NFL draft profile: C.J. Henderson

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 204 pounds
College: Florida
Career stats: 93 tackles, four sacks, six interceptions, 20 passes broken up and two forced fumbles in three college seasons.

Combine measurables
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical jump: 37.5 inches
Broad jump: 127 inches
20-yard shuttle: NA

What experts are saying
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media: "The major concern with this player is tackling. He has way too many misses and that must be improved. Overall, Henderson has some elite traits and could emerge as the top cornerback in this class, but his tackling must be addressed.”
Lance Zierlein, NFL Media: "Henderson is a fluid cornerback with ball skills and burst and has CB1 ability as a first-rounder.”

Draft projection: First round (top 20)