Examining Lions Rookie CB Jeff Okudah's Role in the Defense

Logan Lamorandier examines Lions rookie CB Jeff Okudah's role in the defense in 2020
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The Lions selected cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft -- the first corner selected in the top three of the draft since 1997 (Shawn Springs). 

Considering that the NFL has become a pass-first league, the position is becoming more and more valuable -- as seen by the plethora of “reaches” by other teams for a corner in the first round of the draft.

After Detroit general manager Bob Quinn decided to trade his top cover-man Darius Slay earlier this offseason, the Lions really needed to upgrade their cornerback room. 

Even if Slay was still on the roster, Okudah still would've been the likely pick. 

So, now that head coach Matt Patricia has a new toy to work with in the defensive backfield, what does it mean for the defense?

Given the draft capital that was used to select Okudah, expectations will be at an all-time high. 

Yes, the cornerback position usually has a pretty steep learning curve, but there have been plenty of recent examples of players coming out of college and making a big impact immediately. 

However, the rookie’s job will not be an easy one if the Lions can't fix their anemic pass rush from a season ago.

Obviously, Okudah will be the team’s long-term answer to locking down opposing offenses' top receivers. 

Of all the players that were available for the Lions at No. 3 overall, Okudah would be on the field the most in year one. 

It’s fair to pencil Okudah in as a starter without even playing a single NFL snap.

Fortunately, with veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant coming over via free agency, Okudah may not have to cover opponents' top wideouts right away.

Make no mistake, Okudah has the length, the hip fluidity and stickiness to really help the team’s coverage woes. 

He excels in playing man-to-man coverage. 

While at Ohio State in 2019, Okudah was on the field for 400 coverage snaps, and allowed just 284 yards on 27 receptions. 

When passers targeted him, he picked off three passes, and only allowed one touchdown -- good for a 45.3 quarterback rating.

It remains to be seen if those elite shutdown qualities in the Big Ten will translate to the next level. 

No matter the case, Okudah has the potential to be a Pro Bowl corner -- sooner rather than later.


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