The Detroit Lions traded top cornerback Darius Slay this offseason, so not a big surprise they took the top-rated cornerback in this year’s draft, Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, at No. 3 overall. Here are Okudah’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Lions’ over/under win total.
Ohio State was able to lure Okudah out of Texas in high school. He was a unanimous 5-star recruit and considered the No. 1 cornerback prospect in the nation by 247Sports and the No. 1 safety prospect according to both Rivals and ESPN. He was also a very good receiver.
As a true freshman at Ohio State in 2017, Okudah played in all 14 games and had 17 tackles. As a sophomore in 2018, he played in 13 games, recording 32 tackles.
Last year, he had 34 tackles, 9 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions and was a first-team All-American – one of Ohio State’s 32 Big Ten-leading total of unanimous All-Americans in school history — and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. Okudah was one of only four Ohio State defensive backs to be awarded unanimous All-America status, after Jack Tatum in 1970, Michael Doss in 2002 and Malik Hooker in 2016. Doss and Hooker each played safety.
Tatum played more of a linebacker/safety position. Thus, Okudah was the only unanimous All-American at cornerback for a program that has produced All-Americans such as Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, Malcolm Jenkins, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward.
He was a big part of a defense that was No. 2 nationally in fewest passing yards allowed (156.0 per game), No. 2 in pass efficiency defense (97.50) and No. 1 in total defense, allowing just 259.7 yards per game. Okudah finished his career with 88 tackles (68 solo) and a total of 21 passes defended (18 break-ups and three interceptions).
A stellar athlete who dominated his position with a 41-inch vertical and 135″ broad jump at Indy’s combine, Okudah permitted just two touchdowns on 113 career targets at Ohio State, holding every wideout he faced to fewer than 50 yards receiving in every contest over the last two seasons.
Okudah joined Ward, Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson as the only cornerbacks to go in the top five of the last 17 drafts, and he’s the highest player picked at his position since Shawn Springs went third overall to the Seattle Seahawks in 1997.
“It’s crazy being drafted that high,” Okudah said in a conference call after being selected. “Obviously, the Detroit Lions think a lot about me and I think it’s up to me to return that and give them all that I have and go to work every single day with my teammates and be the best player that I can be.”
He projects as a three-down starter and future All-Pro. He will slide in as Slay’s replacement as the Lions’ No. 1 corner, lining up opposite free-agent pickup Desmond Trufant with Justin Coleman in the slot. If he reaches his ceiling, Okudah could join Slay as the Lions’ only All-Pro defensive backs since Lem Barney in the 1960s.
The Lions allowed the most passing yards in the league last year and then moved on from Slay, one of the most respected corners among his peers at the ripe age of 29. Okudah was dominant in man and up in press coverage while at Ohio State. That fits perfectly with how Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia’s defense likes to play. In 2019, the Lions played 336 snaps in man coverage, the most in the NFL. In man coverage, Detroit allowed 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
“I feel like he’s coming in here pretty confident in his ability,” Coleman said of Okudah recently. “But he’s also hungry. I can see that he wants to learn everything possible. He’s asking questions and stuff when we’re in the Zoom meetings. He just wants to know more. Coaches going over plays and he’ll ask questions about certain things that doesn’t even have to do with cornerback. It just shows he knows a lot about football.”