C.J. Henderson

Raiders mailbag: Strategy if top wide receivers go early in NFL draft

Raiders mailbag: Strategy if top wide receivers go early in NFL draft

It’s NFL Draft week. Wrap your brain around that.

We’ve been talking about college football prospects set to go pro for months now, projecting (likely in vain) where each talent is slotted and properly matched with teams and schemes. It’ll play out starting with Thursday’s first round and progress deep into Saturday until teams take the rough shape they’ll use whenever the 2020 NFL season plays out.

We’ve got one more weekly mailbag in store before the picks are made, so let’s see what’s on your mind. It’s no shock that most questions revolve around Raiders' first-round picks at Nos. 12 and 19, as fans ponder how Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will fill needs with premium picks. Let’s get to them:

Question: I see Panthers, Jags and Jets dipping in the wide receiver pool in the 1st round before the Raiders. If so where does this leave the Raiders at as far as drafting a receiver? – Danny Trujillo on Facebook

Answer: That’s not ideal, but it’s far from the end of the world if that happens. You could try and trade down for volume -- trading to No. 12 would be costly -- and pick up selections in the second round and/or later in the first. If there’s no good deal, take the best damn defensive player on the board. That should be a good one.

If there’s an early receiver run and we know quarterbacks and offensive tackles are still going early, that means an elite defender has fallen through the cracks. Derrick Brown might take a small tumble. I can’t envision a world where Isaiah Simmons makes it to 12, nor Jeffrey Okudah, but you never know if teams go nuts on receivers.

Honestly, I don’t see that happening because of the depth at receiver. Why pass up an elite defensive talent when you can grab a quality wideout later? I think the Raiders will have at least two receiver options when they pick at No. 12.

Q: Is there some truth to the talk that Mayock and Gruden are targeting a receiver in later rounds instead of the 1st? How likely is the defensive overhaul of the offseason going to continue in the 1st round of the draft? I would be fine with defense at 12 & 19. – Thomas Davis on Facebook

A: I would not say “instead of.” I would say “in addition to.” I think it’s possible the Raiders take more than one receiver in the draft, maybe two in the first three rounds. There is a real swing-and-miss risk to first-round receivers, but they offer the best possibility of making an instant impact.

I think the talk you’re referring to stems from Mayock saying a No. 1 receiver could be found as late as the third round. He was speaking in generalities about the class’ amazing depth.

Given the depth at receiver and the drop off after the first few cornerbacks, the Raiders could wait a bit to take a receiver. I wouldn’t go past the No. 19 asset, either used as slotted or for a trade later into the first round and possibly the second, to get one. The Raiders have a pressing receiver need that must be addressed with quality and quantity. And don’t forget that Gruden makes the final decisions. He gave Paul Guenther tons of toys in free agency.

It’s his turn with at least one early pick.

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Q: All the descriptions used to describe Jeudy make him sound like Amari Cooper 2.0. Should that be a concern? – Brian Dale on Facebook

A: I don’t think so, and I’m not sure why Amari Cooper should be considered a negative. He’s the best first-round receiver taken since 2014. He has 5,097 yards in five seasons and has averaged 14.3 yards per catch with the Raiders and Cowboys. He’s a damn good receiver, just one who didn’t get along great with Gruden.

If the Raiders get a more personable, more firey version of Cooper, the Raiders should take that and run.

Gil Brandt compared Jeudy’s on-field play to Antonio Brown recently. Fans have reason to despise AB, but wouldn’t a talent like Brown? Of course, you would.

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Chase Claypool, five other ideal Day 2 Raiders fits]

Q: If you are a betting man, what two positions are be taken 12th and 19th? -- @oakland627 on Twitter

A: I think it falls according to pressing need: Cornerback and receiver, with trades down if the value doesn’t present itself at those spots. I think we can use Clelin Ferrell as an example of needs as vital to chief decision-maker Jon Gruden. The Raiders tried mightily to trade down from No. 4 and still take Ferrell, but no deal materialized to their liking and they took the guy they wanted at the biggest need.

That said, if all three receivers and C.J. Henderson are gone and the Raiders stay put at No. 12 they won’t just take the next best WR/CB on their board. Then I think the interior defensive line comes into play.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk of drafting multiple WRs in this draft. What about multiple CBs? Who would be good value picks at CB in the later rounds? – Justin Zellman on Twitter

A: Good question. I could absolutely see that, even with the Raiders high on 2019 fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson. They’re looking hard for a top-tier cornerback, just as they were in free agency, in this draft. They should also be looking for a slot cornerback of the future. High-priced veteran Lamarcus Joyner occupies that spot, but the team can cut bait after 2020.

[RELATED: Could odd draft mean more mistakes?]

Clemson’s K’Von Wallace is a safety/slot hybrid, like Joyner, and is a favorite of this website. UCLA’s Darnay Holmes is another quality option that should be available for pickup in the third round.

The Raiders could and maybe should look for a top outside guy and someone who can work inside. That might be just as important as completing the receiver corps.

2020 NFL Draft profile: C.J. Henderson could fit 49ers as impact cornerback

2020 NFL Draft profile: C.J. Henderson could fit 49ers as impact cornerback

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)

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold 49ers predictions that could shock some fans

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold 49ers predictions that could shock some fans

The 49ers’ draft activity began a month ago with the trade of team MVP DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall selection.

Now, the 49ers have a lot more versatility in the draft with a lot fewer areas of need than at any time since general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan took over three years ago.

The 49ers enter the draft with the following scheduled selections:

First round: No. 13
First round: No. 31
Fifth round: No. 156
Fifth round: No. 176
Sixth round: No. 210
Seventh round: No. 217
Seventh round: No. 245

Here are five bold predictions for how the 49ers will approach the draft, scheduled for Thursday, April 23, through Saturday, April 25.

Worth the wait for receivers

This is a great year for wide receivers in the draft. The top four wide receivers generally are thought to be CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Justin Jefferson.

But is there a wide enough gap between the receiver the 49ers can get at No. 13, as opposed to the player they could get later in the first round -- or even in the second, third or fourth rounds?

Therefore, the 49ers will wait until the third day of the draft, when there will still be plenty of quality receivers available. And while they’re at it, they will take two of them -- a bigger-bodied receiver and speed-burner to stretch the field.

By waiting until Day 3 to select a wide receiver, the 49ers can go with Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson with their first selection or one of these players ...

Heir apparent for Staley

We do not know if Joe Staley will play in 2020. At this point, we suspect that neither the 49ers nor Staley really knows, either.

So the 49ers have to prepare for this draft as if Staley will not be available for the season.

Surely, Staley wants to play a 14th NFL season and the 49ers want him to be able to play. But there are a lot of factors to consider, including how his body felt at the end of last season and how it feels as the offseason continues.

Staley, who turns 36 in August, has to figure that every season he plays, is going to be more difficult on him physically -- including as the years progress in his post-football life.

There are four offensive tackles who could be among the top 10 players selected in this draft: Mehki Becton (Louisville), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Jedrick Wills (Alabama) and Andrew Thomas (Georgia).

There is no guarantee either of those players will be available at No. 13 overall. But if one is available, the 49ers will grab the player who can protect Jimmy Garoppolo’s blindside for a long, long time.

Top playmaker at 31

The 49ers already have a lot invested in their running backs, so it would definitely come as a surprise if they were to hit that position at the end of the first round or early in the second (with a trade back).

Well, surprise, surprise.

Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin was prolific in the Big Ten, rushing for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns during his three-year career.

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He is a perfect scheme fit for the 49ers, and what he showed as a receiver last season provides the team with an element it did not have last season.

Taylor caught 26 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns last season. That is an area of his game that can grow, and give Garoppolo a reliable safety valve. Taylor in the open field is explosive and he has great ability to make defenders miss.

Plus, with the 49ers depth at running back, Taylor does not have to be overloaded and overworked as he was at Wisconsin.

Draft pick for a veteran

The 49ers will look to make a trade -- perhaps, even before the draft begins. Among the 49ers they could look to move would be receivers Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis.

But the player most likely to yield a decent draft pick in return is running back Matt Breida, whom the 49ers tendered as a restricted free agent at the second-round level.

The deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other clubs is Friday. If another team signed Breida to an offer sheet, they would have to give the 49ers a second-round pick in return. That, obviously, is a price no team would be willing to pay.

But with the 49ers’ depth at running back, they would certainly be content to get a Day 3 pick in return for Breida. And that might be attractive to another team to make that trade.

Breida was a standout performer during his three seasons after signing as an undrafted rookie in 2017. Breida averaged 5.0 yards a carry on his 381 attempts.

But with Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson already on the roster heading into the draft, there might not be room for Breida.

Quality over quantity

Yes, the 49ers could trade back from No. 13. Yes, they could trade back from No. 31. Yes, they could add a draft pick in a trade.

The 49ers currently own seven draft picks, but even with those possible moves, the 49ers will select fewer than seven new players.

[RELATED: 49ers could target these three D-linemen on Day 3 of draft]

That’s because the 49ers will package some of those picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds to move up to take players they have targeted at earlier spots in the draft.

The 49ers have two picks in the first round, then do not have another selection until the fifth round. There will be some good players available in the second, third and fourth rounds. And the 49ers will package some of their later picks for the purpose of adding quality over quantity.