Jeff Okudah Ready for Sunday Spectacle at NFL Combine

Bruce Hooley

Jeff Okudah accomplished his goal as an Ohio State defensive back and he wants those still playing for the Buckeyes to do the same, even though eventually that's not going to be possible.

Okudah will work on Sunday in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine and he promises, "it's going to be a spectacle."

In many ways, it already has been, watching Okudah perform as OSU's shut-down cornerback throughout the 2019 season.

He registered three interceptions, forced one fumble and wasn't guilty of a single pass interference or defensive holding penalty all season.

That's why Okudah is likely to go third overall in the April NFL Draft, which gets us back to that mission he targeted at the start of the season.

"It was about just trying to be better than the defensive backs that came before you, because the bar is always set so high at Ohio State as to what's the expectation for a great corner," Okudah said this week. "For me, it's about, Denzel (Ward) set the bar high. Really high. And I wanted to take that bar and move it up a little higher for the next guy. The next guy will move it up higher for the next guy, and it goes from there."

If Okudah does go third to Detroit, likely following former Buckeye Joe Burrow to the Bengals No. 1 and OSU defensive end Chase Young No. 2 to Washington, he will indeed best the No. 4 overall slot Ward filled when Cleveland took him there in 2018.

That won't lead Shaun Wade much room to improve when it comes to draft slot next year at this time, although OSU is fortunate he chose to return for his junior season this fall, given that he might have been a first-round choice this year.

Okudah's selection No. 3 would match the highest by a Buckeyes' defensive back (Shawn Springs, Seattle, 1997) and make him the seventh player from the OSU secondary taken in the first round since 2014. 

Year
Player
Selection overall
Team

2014

Bradley Roby

31

Denver

2016

Eli Apple

10

New York Giants

2017

Marshon Lattimore

11

New Orleans

2017

Malik Hooker

15

Indianapolis

2017

Gareon Conley

24

Oakland

2018

Denzel Ward

4

Cleveland

"I think it just validates my work ethic and a lot of the work I've put in to get here and the plays I've shown out on the field," Okudah said of his status as the top cornerback in the draft.

Unlike Young, who chose not to work out in Indy and wait for OSU's Pro Day March 25, Okudah seems eager to get in front of scouts and confirm what they already believe about him.

"You're getting a straight technician," he said. "If you really love football, watch the tape. You'll see someone who's really in love with being a better player. Technique is something I really pride myself on. I know that when athleticism fades away, technique will always be there. That's something I've always prided myself on and something I care deeply about. 

"...I want to show my feet off. I take a lot of pride in my footwork, in the drills that I do and how they translate to the field. I've been licking my chops for these defensive back drills.'"

And what are scouts likely to see?

"It's going to be a spectacle," Okudah said. "They're going to see my footwork. They're going to say, 'This guy really is DB-1. He went out there on Sunday against the best DBs and he proved it."

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