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Florida’s CJ Henderson to forgo senior season, enter 2020 NFL Draft

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The talented Gators corner makes the call almost all expected.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Georgia v Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Florida Gators junior cornerback CJ Henderson will forgo his senior season of eligibility, sit out of Florida’s bowl game, and enter the 2020 NFL Draft, he announced Friday via Twitter.

As was the case with the Instagram post Feleipe Franks used to announce his departure from Florida, Henderson’s tweet includes a graphic formatted in a way familiar to Florida fans, strongly suggesting that he arrived at this decision with the input of (and possibly encouragement from) the Gators’ coaching staff.

Henderson, a junior from Miami, had long been considered a likely early entrant in the 2020 NFL Draft, with some preseason projections suggesting he was a potential first-rounder next spring. A relatively underwhelming junior season — Henderson had 11 pass break-ups, 26 tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack in 2019, improving on his 2018 stat line only in PBUs, and he failed to intercept a pass — may force some reconsideration of his stock, but he’s still likely a top-100 pick, thanks to a rare combination of good size and top-end speed that made him difficult — though not impossible — to beat deep and some instinctual and physical play as a blitzer and tackler.

Henderson’s decision to skip Florida’s bowl game is also a sensible one for a player who has put everything necessary on film and sustained an injury earlier this fall: While he could impress NFL evaluators with his play in what will likely be the Orange Bowl, he would be taking a much bigger risk of injury by suiting up for a glorified exhibition.

Without Henderson, Florida is likely to start at least one underclassman cornerback — either sophomore Trey Dean or freshman Kaiir Elam, the latter of whom appeared to have separated himself from classmates Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough down the stretch of the season — in its bowl game. If fellow junior Marco Wilson also decides to turn pro, the Gators may trot out Dean and Elam at both starting outside corner positions.

Henderson is the fourth Gator to announce future plans this week, following Franks and reserves Lucas Krull and Umstead Sanders, all of whom made their decisions to leave Florida public knowledge.