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Roundtable: Will Jeff Okudah Live Up to Expectations After Battling Injuries?

The latest SI All Lions Roundtable dives into whether Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah will live up to expectations.

1.) Is there a player the Lions could select at No. 2 overall that would leave you scratching your head? 

Vito Chirco: I think it would be selecting LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Nothing against Stingley or his skill set, but picking him would be a hard sell for a Lions fanbase that went through the agony of seeing the former Detroit regime -- led by Bob Quinn in the front office -- take CB Jeff Okudah at No. 3 overall in the 2020 draft. And now going into his third season in the NFL, Okudah might already be on his way out of a job in the Motor City. 

It gives me the strong feeling that the fanbase doesn't want to see the organization go down the same road with a top-three pick. 

John Maakaron: If the Lions just happen to select a quarterback at No. 2, I would be shocked. A player like Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett could dazzle at their pre-draft workout and shoot up draft boards. The Lions need a day one starter, and I believe that is what general manager Brad Holmes will look to add in the early rounds this year.

Adam Strozynski: It's not even a specific player that would have me scratching my head, rather it's a group of positions. I don't feel any of the quarterbacks are worthy of the No. 2 pick. With that said, neither a running back or a cornerback should be selected with the second overall pick. 

2.) Would you pay tight end T.J. Hockenson a hefty contract after the 2022 NFL season? 

Chirco: As much as I like Hockenson and his ability to be a go-to target in the passing game, it's also true that he's only managed to play one full season's worth of games since being drafted by the Lions in 2019. And, to me, that's a big-time flaw, as well as a reason why Brad Holmes & Co. in that Detroit front office shouldn't pay big money to retain his services.

So, unless Hockenson blows me away with his production and most importantly, suits up for at least 16 games in 2022, I'll be against giving him a hefty pay raise at season's end. 

Maakaron: I didn't enter this week thinking the Lions needed to trade T.J. Hockenson. But, if he is seeking a significant pay raise in his next deal, that may have to be seriously considered. I like him as a player, but can't help but feel he needs to produce more and his injuries are starting to become concerning. At this point, I would not pay Hockenson like he is a top-five tight end in the NFL.

Strozynski: At this point, hell no! I was disappointed by Hockenson's performance this past season. He would have to deliver in 2022 for a big contract. I'm thinking something along the lines of 950 yards and eight touchdowns.   

3.) Do you believe Jeff Okudah will come back and contribute to the Detroit Lions' defense? 

Chirco: Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of confidence in this being the case with Okudah. 

He had a rough first year in the league in 2020, being consistently graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the worst cornerbacks in the entire NFL. And then, he followed that up in 2021 by only playing in one game due to a season-ending Achilles' injury that he suffered in Week 1. 

So, now he not only possesses questions from an ability standpoint but also from a health standpoint.  

To me, it's why he can't be counted on for much of anything in 2022. 

Maakaron: I am rooting for Jeff Okudah to come back after a serious injury. Unfortunately, healthy cornerbacks are already behind the eight ball, because of how the NFL caters to offenses. I am starting to ponder how effective Okudah could be playing safety, because I just don't see him having success as a cornerback.

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Strozynski: I am probably the wrong guy to ask this question. I've hated the Okudah pick since day one, and have been extremely low on him since he first donned the Honolulu Blue. The injury he has makes it tough to come back and be explosive, and he really didn't show that ability prior to tearing his Achilles, either. I don't think you ever get the return on Okudah, and if contribute means being a rotational safety or nickel corner, maybe. I won't count on it, though.

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4.) What did you dislike the most about the Lions' 2021 season?

Chirco: The lack of really any kind of offense, plus the subsequent piling up of losses, through the first 12 weeks of the season. 

It was an ugly display of offense on a weekly basis from starting signal-caller Jared Goff and the entire unit, and this seemingly remained the case until now former Detroit offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was stripped of his play-calling duties in Week 10.  

Lions head coach Dan Campbell took over the responsibilities, and a few rough weeks followed. But, once Week 13 came, Goff & Co. snapped their winless streak and started collectively playing a better brand of football. This is when the "tide" truly shifted and Goff and his receivers -- most notably rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown -- started to click.

But, until then, the offense was hard to watch, and it was the aspect of Detroit's 2021 campaign that I disliked the most. 

Maakaron: I disliked how head coach Dan Campbell waffled back and forth between trusting his gut and using analytics when deciding how to handle decisions and play calls on fourth down. I think he is playing with fire handling things that way. He should come to a decision on how to handle his aggressiveness and play-calling, because he is opening himself to be scrutinized heavily. 

Strozynski: This took some digging through my complaints of the season. The thing I consistently had a problem with was the in-game situational play-calling of Dan Campbell. You can't ever convince me that on fourth-and-5 from your own 35-yard line, that it's smart to go for it and not punt. 

5.) Do you think the Packers' run of success is finally over?

Chirco: I think this all hinges upon whether Aaron Rodgers parts ways with the organization this offseason. Remember, his go-to target Davante Adams, the Packers' supremely gifted No. 1 wideout, is set to be a free agent at season's end, too. Both individuals could very well be on their way out of Green Bay. 

Yet, if Rodgers returns, the Packers are once again equipped to be the favorites to win the NFC North.  

Maakaron: I think the Packers are a mess, and are on the verge of having their run end. They are in salary-cap hell at the moment and could lose Aaron Rodgers. Now is the time for the Lions to take advantage because the Packers are on the ropes. 

Strozynski: As long as the Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers, they will be a factor. I do think something needs to change, though. 

Matt LaFleur has made a lot of big mistakes in big games. Also, the salary structure of the Packers is lethal. Rodgers is on record of not wanting to be part of a rebuild, but Green Bay has to unload or restructure a lot of contracts to make the salary cap work. It will be interesting to see if the Packers can make it work. 

I don't think Rogers stays, and I think there ends up being a lot of retooling that gets done. Next year, Green Bay struggles to get six wins.