Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is viewed as the best shutdown cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft. The oddsmakers over at William Hill U.S. have created a market that offers bettors the opportunity to wager on which team will draft the coveted defensive standout.
The evolution of modern NFL offenses and its effect on the cornerback position
Cornerback has developed into the premium defensive position in the NFL over the past decade, directly correlating with the league shifting to more pass-heavy offensive schemes. The league has slowly turned away from the days of “ground and pound,” with quarterbacks now being asked to air the ball out frequently. It’s why stopping four- and five-wide receiver spread formations requires quality cover cornerbacks now more than ever.
Nearly every draft expert has Okudah as the top ranked corner in this year’s draft. Dating back to 1999, 10 cornerbacks out of Ohio State have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft (no other school has more than five during that span). According to SI’s Buckeye Maven Bruce Hooley: Okudah's selection at 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.
Okudah started all 14 games, registering three interceptions, one forced fumble and wasn't guilty of a single pass interference or defensive holding penalty all season. Okudah garnered first-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Okudah tested extremely well at the NFL combine, running a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, jumping 41 inches in the vertical and 135 inches in the broad. He offers the perfect balance of size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and quickness that defensive coordinators dream about for man-to-man coverage. Some analysts compare him to one of the NFL's best shutdown corners, Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams.
With LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young seemingly slam-dunks to come off the board in the first two picks to Cincinnati and Washington, respectively, that leaves the remaining teams at the top draft in play for Okudah’s services.
Detroit Lions (+125)
Detroit sits with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft with a huge need in their secondary. The Lions possessed the fourth-worst pass defense in the NFL last season and the need for Okudah grew immensely after they traded Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s been growing speculation that the Lions could trade down with a team looking to jump up to acquire either Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama or perhaps Oregon’s Justin Herbert. In order for that to take place, the trade package would have to consist of significant compensation, especially for a Lions club desperately in need of a corner to pair opposite of newly signed Desmond Trufant. Barring a trade, Detroit is easily the new home for the former Buckeye standout.
Carolina Panthers (+300)
Okudah falling to the Carolina Panthers at No. 7 seems like a stretch. If the prized corner did drop, Matt Rhule's Panthers would run to their telecommunications application to make the pick. The Panthers lost top cornerback James Bradberry in free agency after he signed a three-year deal with the New York Giants for $43.5 million. Locked up for potentially five years, Carolina would land an ideal asset for a secondary that allowed a league-high 470 points in 2019 and faces some of the league’s top wideouts multiple times per season in Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
New York Giants (+450)
The Giants could have one of the better offenses in 2020 with the healthy return of many star players, but the Big Blue defense still needs serious attention. The Giants allowed the third-most points per game in 2019 (28.2) while surrendering the sixth-highest completion percentage (70.9%) and the fifth-most passing yards (4,376). First-round pick DeAndre Baker, out of Georgia, struggled immensely covering opposing teams’ top wide receiver, so moving him into the slot and pairing the shutdown Okudah with newly signed Bradberry would instantly give the Giants a formidable secondary that already consists of star safety Jabrill Peppers, who earned the club’s highest coverage grade last season.
New York Jets (40/1)
For those bettors looking to cash a lottery ticket among any of the teams with sizable odds, the Jets offer the best value at 40/1. The Jets have massive needs at offensive tackle, wide receiver and shutdown corner. I realize it would take a fall of monumental proportions, but we see star players shockingly slip in the first round every year. If the Lions were to trade back beyond pick No. 11, the Giants went for Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons and the Panthers tabbed Derrick Brown, the Jets could see the top corner fall into their laps. This scenario is highly unlikely, but that’s why the odds are so big and attractive.
Against The Odds:
Detroit made the decision to trade Slay to the Eagles based upon their strong belief that Okudah would be sitting there when they are on the clock. He is an ideal fit for Matt Patricia’s press coverage scheme. Jamie Collins will upgrade the edge of the defense, former Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant will help one side of the secondary and defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Nick Williams will help shore up the interior of the line. It’s a simple matter of matching up the best player on the board with a team in dire need for elite shutdown talent at the cornerback position.
However, we need to pay attention to the other draft betting market offered by William Hill involving Okudah:
What bettors need to take from this deeper dive, is that Okudah is now decently favored to be drafted after the fourth overall pick. With the over 4.5 now juiced to -140, that strongly indicates that bettors should dismiss both the Lions at +125 and Giants at +450. That means my money lands on Carolina at 3/1 with a small sprinkle on the Jets on 40/1.
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