The Detroit Lions have been one of the most active teams in this free agency period. From trading three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrius Slay to signing the entire 2019 New England Patriots defense (okay, I am only slightly kidding, but they did add DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins and S Duron Harmon from the Pats), Detroit has been one of the busier teams and have signed or acquired nine players since free agency began on March 18th.
Five of those nine have come on the defensive side of the ball. Two, Desmond Trufant and Darryl Roberts, have even been cornerbacks to try to replace Slay. This shouldn’t deter the Lions from looking long and hard at Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Okudah, who was a unanimous All-American selection in 2019, helped lead the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoffs with three interceptions, nine pass breakups and 34 tackles.
While taking a cornerback third overall is a bit high and I am all for Detroit trading down from their position, especially if drafting Okudah, he still may be a Lion. So let’s look at what he brings to the table:
Size and Speed: Okudah has the size of a top-flight cornerback. At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, he is similar in stature to the likes of Pro Bowlers Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. This excellent size for the position allows him to guard bigger receivers and excel in man coverage. While he isn’t the fastest of this cornerback (tied for 12th for his position at the NFL Combine) class, his 4.48 40-yard dash time is still quick. This allows him to guard deep threats and take more chances as his recovery speed is phenomenal.
Physicality and IQ: Okudah isn’t afraid to help out and step up in run support and loves laying hit-stick like tackles when given the opportunity. He anticipates throws well and beats receivers to the spot. He plays receivers tough at the line of scrimmage and is great in press coverage, which allows him to disrupt routes early.
Tackling: Okudah could use work on his form tackling instead of leading with a shoulder. This could also come from him relying too much on his athleticism, which leads to sloppiness in his form.
Strength: His 11 reps on the bench press at the combine (tied for 18th at his position) show that Okudah has room to get stronger. This will need to happen at the next level as receivers in the NFL are a lot bigger than he faced in college. Okudah often stays attached to blocks with bigger receivers downfield too long and this is something that he can improve on.
Overall, Okudah has more strengths than weaknesses and has the ability to turn into a shutdown corner at the NFL level. He very well could make the Pro Bowl as a rookie and help Detroit replace the productivity of Slay. He may be a reach at third overall, as just about any cornerback is, but will nonetheless help this team immediately.
All stats and measurements are courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com.