Why Jeff Okudah Will Be Lions' Pick at No. 3
Fast-forward to Thursday, April 23, in Las Vegas, Nev. The Lions are on the clock at No. 3 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Who do you envision Detroit general manager Bob Quinn & Co. taking?
LSU Heisman-winning and national champion passer Joe Burrow? Not a shot. He's going No. 1 to the quarterback-hungry Cincinnati Bengals.
How about Ohio State Chuck Bednarik Award-winning EDGE defender Chase Young?
Lions fans would love for him to be available at No. 3 since he would provide an immediate upgrade to head coach Matt Patricia's defense in the pass-rushing department.
However, it's not likely to happen with the now Ron Rivera-led Washington Redskins sitting at No. 2 overall.
It'd be surprising for a defensive-minded coach like Rivera, who played linebacker with the Chicago Bears from 1984-92, to pass up on a high-impact defender like Young in this spot.
Burrow and Young are basically the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections in this April's draft.
It brings me to this: How about the feasibility of the Lions selecting Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2018, with the third pick?
If the medicals on Tagovailoa's hip check out well, this would be my course of action if I was Quinn.
There's no guarantee that the Lions' 31-year-old franchise passer Matthew Stafford -- who turns 32 on February 7 -- will ever be fully healthy again.
He missed the final eight games of the 2019 campaign with a back ailment, and also reportedly played through small fractures in his back during the 2018 season.
So, the Lions could get out in front of a potential lingering issue with Stafford by drafting Tua.
However, remember, this is the Lions we're talking about -- an organization that has won just one playoff game since its NFL Championship-winning campaign of 1957.
They're rarely ever proactive, and they're never transcendent.
Heck, it's the reason why they attempted to replicate the so-called "Patriot Way" -- something that has become more and more clearly not replicable in the Motor City.
Picking Tua is so obviously the right decision to make that Lions fans everywhere know -- or at least should know -- that it's not going to happen.
Subsequently, don't bank on it occurring for the Ford-run franchise with the No. 3 overall selection.
Instead, let's focus on two defensive draft prospects -- one that has shot up draft boards recently in Clemson's Isaiah Simmons and one that has been toward the top of draft boards for a while now in Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah.
Simmons is one of the sexiest prospects in the draft right now, and arguably is the player that benefited the most from their performance in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Simmons, who finished with seven total tackles and a sack while playing all over the field in Clemson's national title game loss to Burrow and LSU, is beloved for his position versatility.
According to Jordan Reid of The Draft Network, Simmons played five different positions during this past regular season.
He lined up most of the time -- 253 of 635 snaps -- at slot cornerback.
He also logged 26.1 percent of his snaps at safety, 20.1 percent of his snaps at outside linebacker, 11.3 percent of his snaps at inside linebacker and 1.9 percent of his snaps lined up at cornerback on the boundary, or shorter side of the field.
He finished the 2019 campaign with a career-high total 104 tackles, seven sacks, a single forced fumble and fumble recovery, eight passes defensed and three interceptions.
By all accounts, he would be a slam-dunk choice at No. 3 overall.
However, he still doesn't seem like the most realistic selection for the Lions.
All you have to do is go back to last year's draft to figure out why that's the case.
In the first round of the '19 NFL Draft, Detroit's front office went ultra conservative, and took tight end T.J. Hockenson out of Iowa with the No. 8 overall pick.
Hockenson clearly wasn't the player with the highest upside left on the board. Yet, Quinn & Co. decided to take him because he filled a position of need.
Fast-forward to 2020, and a similar situation could emerge with the Lions taking Okudah -- a defensive back -- with their first-round selection.
Okudah wouldn't be the most awe-inspiring pick, but would fill a position of need in Detroit's secondary.
This past season, the secondary was torched on a consistent basis, allowing a league-worst 284.4 passing yards per game.
Okudah, meanwhile, "allowed just 3.1 yards per target in press coverage" this past season -- over 3.5 yards below the FBS average, according to Pro Football Focus.
Per PFF, he also produced a better coverage grade in his final collegiate season than Jalen Ramsey did in his final season at Florida State in 2015.
For many years now, it's been the Lions' modus operandi to play it safe in the draft -- especially in the first round.
And with owner Martha Ford coming out and saying that she expects Detroit "to be a playoff contender" in 2020, this year's selection of the top amateur football players in the world should be no different.
Barring a scenario in which the Lions trade down, expect Okudah to be the franchise's first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.