Detroit Lions: Best case scenarios for rookies on defense

Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
Julian Okwara, Notre Dame (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Jeffrey Okudah

6-1, 205 pound cornerback from Ohio State, drafted in the first round (third overall pick)

Best Case for 2020: He fills Darius Slay’s cleats ahead of schedule, and joins Denzel Ward and Patrick Peterson in the rare group of cornerbacks to be selected to Pro Bowl in their first seasons. A great season from Okudah (as well as safety Tracy Walker) would go a long way towards justifying some of Bob Quinn’s unpopular transactions involving defensive backs over the last ten months.

Most Likely Role: At minimum, Okudah is expected to be an immediate starter for the Lions’ rebuilding secondary. Factoring in the typical learning curve at the position, opposing quarterbacks will likely test the rookie early on, so Okudah should have plenty of chances to rack of solid numbers in interceptions and passes defended. ‘Cautiously optimistic’ is how I’d describe my feeling about the Lions’ secondary in general, and even if the pass rush is improved, the youth of this group will still be a liability at least in the early stages.

Julian Okwara

6-4, 248 pound edge rusher from Notre Dame, drafted in the third round (67th overall)

Best Case for 2020: Eight to ten sacks as a pass rush specialist. ‘Edge’ increasingly blurs the line between a defensive end and an outside linebacker. With so many linebackers on the roster already, it would seem like the team would try to develop Okwara into a more conventional defensive end sometime down the road.

Most Likely Role: Most scouts note his struggles defending the run and his clear preference for lining up standing than in a three point stance, so for his rookie year, pass rush from the outside seems about as much as we can hope for. In fact, Okwara’s likely role looks pretty similar to the hybrid end/linebacker mix that many people feel is Jarrad Davis’s best chance at success on this team as well.