The fallout of Darius Slay’s departure from the Detroit Lions has made headlines during this dead sports period. Slay cited two instances where he felt disrespected by Matt Patricia, and since then, former players have come out in waves detailing their own grievances against Detroit’s head coach.
Whether those claims are valid or not, when Detroit traded Slay to Philadelphia in exchange for the No. 85 and No. 166 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Lions lost a key member of their defensive secondary. It could be an area they address with the No. 3 selection.
Okudah a prime target for Lions
Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah currently has the second-best odds to go at No. 3 (+185) behind the favorite, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (-110). But Tagovailoa’s likelihood of being chosen at this spot mostly stems from the possibility of a QB-needy team such as the Miami Dolphins (No. 5), Los Angeles Chargers (No. 6) or Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 9) trading up with Detroit for the Crimson Tide’s playmaking QB.
Last year, the Lions and Stafford turned a $6 million roster bonus into a signing bonus, meaning Stafford’s cap hit to the organization is $21.3 million if he plays for Detroit and $32 million if he is traded or cut. For a head coach that is 9-22-1 in his first two years, it seems unlikely Patricia and a front office on the hot seat would be willing to take a greater cap hit for a QB prospect who is coming off a dislocated hip. However, this is the Lions, so who knows?
But if the Lions do keep the pick, Okudah makes a lot of sense for them.
High grades for the cornerback
The 6-1, 205-pound corner ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and received the third-highest prospect grade (7.15) of those who attended the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, according to the NFL. Only Ohio State’s Chase Young (7.40) and Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (7.16) scored better, and the rave reviews from scouts support the rankings drawn from Okudah’s physical tools. He’s been called one of the best cornerback prospects to come out in the last decade and has been compared to former All-Pro, Darrelle Revis.
“Okudah has ideal size, length, twitch and competitiveness for the position,” said NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who has Okudah ranked as the top cornerback prospect in this year’s draft. “He is very comfortable and effective in both press and off coverage and is patient in press and very fluid/smooth when he opens up. He does a nice job of staying on top versus vertical routes and he can locate the football down the field. He has the agility to mirror underneath. In off coverage, he explodes out of his plant and he is a dependable open-field tackler. This is a very clean player with a very high floor and ceiling.”
Okudah’s college stats support the pre-draft praise he’s received. During his three-year career after entering Ohio State as a five-star recruit, Okudah allowed a career passer rating of 55.7 and a completion percentage of 43.2 when opposing QBs threw his way. Two years ago he recorded a team-high eight pass breakups, including two in a 28-23 Rose Bowl win over Washington. Okduah followed up that performance with nine breakups and three interceptions for an Ohio State defense that allowed just 13.7 points per game. And between the whistles, Okudah was not flagged for a penalty in 2019-20. The only flag he drew was for a late hit in the rivalry showdown with Michigan.
More draft odds for Lions
This offseason, the Lions signed cornerback Desmond Trufant to a two-year, $21 million deal in hopes of shoring up their league-worst pass defense (284 passing yards per game) from 2019. Drafting Okudah further addresses that need and gives the team a chance at turning one of the league’s top prospects into an elite shutdown corner.
Here are the other leading candidates to land at No. 3:
Chase Young, Ohio State, DE +290
He’s the best pass rusher in the draft, but he’s unlikely to fall to No. 3. The Washington Redskins are currently -330 to take him at No. 2.
Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, LB +500
Simmons was one of the most versatile defenders for the national runner-ups. According to Pro Football Focus, he played at least 100 snaps at five different positions: inside linebacker (299), slot cornerback (262), free safety (132), outside linebacker (116) and strong safety (110). He earned All-American status after tallying 104 tackles, eight sacks and three interceptions.
Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama, OT +1600
The monstrous 6-5, 320-pound tackle doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Lions after they recently signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year, $50 million deal this offseason.
Justin Herbert, Oregon, QB +2000
It’s the same case as it is for Tagovailoa: a team looking to add a QB in this draft could trade up with Detroit if Herbert is its guy.
Joe Burrow, LSU, QB, +8500