Jeffrey Okudah could make sense to the Detroit Lions as a first round draft choice in April’s 2020 NFL Draft.
Jeffrey Okudah is a cornerback from Ohio State University. Listed unofficially before the combine at 6’1″, and around 200 pounds, Okudah has pretty good size for a corner and should come in with pretty good arm length as well when that gets measured at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s a former five star recruit out of high school and played his high school football in Texas. A three year starter with no character issues, he seems to check most of the boxes that you want to see in a high draft pick from a physical perspective.
However, to be drafted in the first round like Okudah is expected to be, a player needs more than just physical tools. So what is it about his game makes him a great fit for the Detroit Lions? What makes him a potential top five selection that would add him to an elite group of corners like Jalen Ramsey and Denzel Ward? Over the course of this Jeffrey Okudah draft profile, there should be many reasons why fans can get excited when they see his name linked to the Detroit Lions in the first round of mock drafts this off-season.
Okudah Excels in Man-to-Man Coverage
One thing that many analysts have pointed out about the Matt Patricia defense during his time as head coach is the heavy usage of man-to-man coverage. It would naturally make sense that the Lions would like to have a corner with experience in that kind of system rather than coming from a college that utilizes a very zone heavy system. That’s where Okudah comes in. One of the main trends you’ll see throughout this Jeffrey Okudah draft profile is that his fit with the Detroit Lions seems natural and very smooth in all facets. The first and most basic one of these is scheme fit.
Okudah ran a lot of man coverage at Ohio State, and has experience in that type of role on the boundary at the collegiate level that should ease his transition compared to some other corners who come out of more zone heavy schools. One reason why some corners struggle so much in transitioning often times is because they’re coming from defenses that run 75% zone coverage and going to teams that run 40% or so man coverage in the NFL. So corners have to not only learn a new scheme and playbook, but learn different techniques and use a somewhat different skill set than they may have used in college the prior year.
Not only has he been embedded in a man coverage system, but he’s also found success within his time in that type of system, which is even more rare among college corners. As of Week 14 during the college football season (so before the Conference Championship and College Football Playoff game), Okudah had allowed 450 yards on 37 catches through 87 targets since the start of his Sophomore season in 2018. He possesses all of the traits you need to see from a corner to transition to man coverage at the NFL level effectively, as early as year one.
He Plays Disciplined Football
Another important note about this Jeffrey Okudah draft profile is that he seems to be exactly what the Lions want, and also what they need. This hasn’t been so true for the Detroit Lions first round picks since possibly as far back as the pick of Matthew Stafford. Not only is he a great fit for the Lions, but his discipline makes elevates his value even higher. For example, prior to taking a questionable unnecessary roughness call against Michigan, Okudah had not taken a single penalty the entire season. Take a moment to think about how remarkable an accomplishment that is for a man corner.
His ability to stay disciplined and play physical football including reps in hard press coverage at the line of scrimmage while avoiding penalties is a critical aspect needed to find success in the NFL as we enter the 2020’s. He does a great job of recognizing the boundary and scouting referees to understand how much he can get away with both at and beyond the line of scrimmage and at the top of routes, which is very helpful to his team in terms of limiting risk.
Cornerbacks Need To Be Athletic – Okudah Nails That
One thing that most NFL fans find intriguing about draft prospects is their athletic ability. Okudah has no shortages there. As mentioned previously, Okudah has the athleticism to play in man coverage, as well as zone. He also has the requisite size and measurables to fit into any scheme well. His arm length is a particular advantage of which to take note.
Coming out of high school as a five star safety recruit four seasons ago, Okudah ran a 4.49 forty yard dash. Fast forward to today and it’s extremely likely he’s gotten faster while at Ohio State. Particularly with more training and pre-draft work getting ready for the combine. Additionally, he also tested with a 4.03 20 yard shuttle, and a 41.6 inch vertical jump. This would put him roughly around the 95th percentile of all corners measured at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis using Kent Platte’s RAS metrics.
Another thing that makes Okudah stand out is his ability to translate his athleticism on the field in pads. He doesn’t show any significant issues with trailing receivers or getting burned down the field, and has shown great recovery speed on tape that allows him to adjust quickly to well executed routes. He might not be the best athlete of all time, but he’s absolutely an elite one, and his athleticism will help him greatly at the NFL level.
Run Support? A Perfect Fit For the Detroit Lions
Another aspect that fans will find interesting about Jeffrey Okudah, and something that the Lions specifically will place an emphasis on in his scouting report, is tackling. Okudah is one of the best tackling cornerbacks to enter the draft in several years. He has earned rightful comparisons to physical corners including Jalen Ramsey for this reason. Not only does he have the willingness to fight through blocks, but he has also shown some improvement technically in beating receiver blocks on the edge and winning both inside and out as well. It’s an area of his game all corners need to continue to work on, but his base in this area is incredibly strong.
He also has shown repeated and consistent tackling fundamentals as well. Okudah repeatedly attempts and makes tackles in open space on screens, short routes and down the field on long plays after chasing down ball carriers as well. This is one of his biggest strong suits and one of the key differences between him and many other top corners in previous drafts. Okudah’s willingness to not only go for a big hit, but his ability and willingness to tackle is a strong suit in his game that will not go unnoticed by NFL teams. It is a key reason why many would argue he’s better than corners like Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward and others.
Everyone Has Improvement Areas – Jeffrey Okudah is No Different
While Okudah is a very special prospect in almost all key areas of the cornerback position, there are some a few small items that deserve scrutiny. The biggest of which in terms of playing outside cornerback is his ability to enforce the boundary. Part of his inconsistencies with boundary enforcement may in large part be due to a combination of three things:
- His discipline that as mentioned above.
- Ohio State’s scheme which typically leans towards funneling players inside towards other defenders rather than stressing the boundary.
- Okudah’s confidence in making plays on the ball.
It would be nice to see a little bit more in terms of what he can do forcing receivers running deep down the field into boundary to help force more throw-aways and out of bounds passes rather than throws that might become contested catches at the NFL level.
This is particularly important in press coverage alignments. Redirecting receivers outside more frequently could be something for Okudah to work on. In a man scheme when playing the boundary, this could be a minor area of improvement for him in terms of comfort and getting his footwork and hand timing coordinated. Again, a particularly picky note for a prospect as well rounded as Okudah, identifying the small details he doesn’t do as well is much harder than noting just how much he can do at a high level.
Best To Keep Okudah Out of the Slot
One other minor note about Okudah is that during his time at Ohio State, he did not line up very much in the slot. He lined up almost exclusively outside, so following number one receivers (like the Vikings’ Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen for instance) inside may not be ideal for him long term and will require some extra development time. In the Lions scheme, he would largely play outside cornerback since Justin Coleman typically plays nickel corner. This would help keep Okudah out of the slot ideally and limit the number of reps he would have to flex inside.
Jeffrey Okudah Draft Profile Extra Notes
There are a few remaining notes on Jeffery Okudah that are worth mentioning. The first is that he has special teams experience and has spent time as a gunner and vice before, two areas the Lions are always looking for competition and potential upgrades. Additionally, his defensive backs coach at Ohio State early on in his career there, Kerry Coombs who recruited him to Ohio State, is the father of the Detroit Lions new special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs.
Secondly, Okudah has little to no injury history on record. His durability has not been a concern to date. Finally, Okudah by all accounts is a high character player. This is obviously something to which the Detroit Lions pay close attention. His parents were of Nigerian descent and moved to the United States in the 1990’s. He’s a mentally tough person off the field who comes from a humble background. He comes from a family of strong values and respect, according to the Draft Network’s profile on him which can be found here. For more information on his upbringing, check out his piece in the Player’s Tribune here.
Keep An Eye On Jeffery Okudah if the Lions Draft at 3 or 5 Overall
In summary, Jeffrey Okudah is a great college player who will to go in the top five in April’s 2020 NFL Draft. Okudah presents as an excellent fit with the Detroit Lions franchise should the team take him in this year’s draft. This is a long term play for the Lions, that will pay dividends for years. Exactly what you want from your first round draft pick.
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