Okudah Could be Next Buckeye to Pay Off for Detroit

Bruce Hooley

It's a rarity for the Detroit Lions to spend a draft pick on an Ohio State player, which seems odd given that the success rate on the few exceptions is a lot more appealing than the optics.

Sure, it's a bit awkward, selecting a Buckeye who's made his collegiate football life's work defeating the Michigan Wolverines, but given the NFL's copycat tendencies it's puzzling why the Lions haven't gone to an OSU talent pool that's paid off pretty well.

Left tackle Taylor Decker has been a fixture in the starting lineup ever since his selection 16th overall in 2016 and just had his fifth-year option picked up by the franchise.

Decker, though, is the only OSU player the Lions have taken in the top three rounds since grabbing Buckeye All-American and Lombardi Trophy winner Chris Spielman with the second pick in the second round in 1988.

Spielman remains one of the most popular players in franchise history, having made the Pro Bowl four times, and now serves as the Lions' pre-season TV analyst and is also an analyst on the team's official web site.

It's looking more and more like cornerback Jeff Okudah will be the next outstanding former Buckeye to pay off for the Lions, who are positioned to take him with the No. 3 pick overall, unless they trade it to Miami.

The Dolphins hold the fifth pick and want either Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon's Justin Herbert, quarterbacks who they fear might be gone if they sit tight and wait for one -- particularly Tua -- to fall to them.

But even if the Lions grab several of the Dolphins' additional picks to drop two spots, there's plenty of speculation Okudah would then fall to them at No. 5 after the New York Giants take an offensive tackle.

New York doesn't need a quarterback, having taken Daniel Jones a year ago.

Okudah, though, is so far and away the best cornerback in this draft and there are so many tackle prospects -- with no clear cut No. 1 at the position, -- that Detroit risks having a team trade in front of them to the No. 4 spot for Okudah.

He had zero pass interference penalties and zero holding penalties during a season in which he made 35 tackles, intercepted three passes and registered nine pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

If not for a replay overturn of the fumble he caused in the Fiesta Bowl, Okudah might well have made the signature defensive play in what could have been a victory that advanced OSU to the national championship game.

Detroit traded its best cornerback, Darius Slay, to Philadelphia on March 19, seemingly opening a spot for Okudah in the lineup.

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