The Challenge Facing Rookie CB Jeff Okudah
The Detroit Lions made cornerback Jeff Okudah one of the rare defensive backs to be selected in the top five over the last two decades of the NFL Draft.
In fact, Shawn Springs was the last cornerback selected in the top five, when he was drafted with the third overall pick by the Seahawks in the 1997 draft.
“I’m not sure why teams have shied away (from it) -- honestly, I don’t,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said back in April. “I think it’s obviously a critical position, and has high value in the league. Really when you look at corners, basically, you have three corners that are starters in professional football now. We go back to free agency a year ago, we signed Justin Coleman to play nickel, and we paid him like a starter because we feel like you need three starting-level corners to have a productive defense. So, why teams have shied away, I can’t really answer that. You have to ask the teams that have passed."
Despite Okudah having strong familiarity with Detroit's man-coverage scheme, not having any reps this offseason during minicamp will present a challenge as he enters his rookie campaign in Detroit.
The sheer mental and physical pace of the cornerback position has proven to be tougher to adjust to than for rookies at other positions.
As the league trends more toward a passing league, the accuracy of quarterbacks and the route-running of receivers have become nearly impossible to stifle.
“I don’t care if you’re a rookie or if you’re a six-year vet, you stand out there, and line up on Sundays against any team -- I don’t care what team it is. It’s a challenge," defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Saturday in a video conference.
He commented further, "I think the most important thing to understand is we have not played. We have not played a snap yet. We haven’t even practiced a snap yet. His challenge right now is just being out there on the first day, and (I) don’t care where we drafted him, where he came from. Obviously, the goal is for every guy on this roster to get better every single day, and we’ll just start from there.”