Detroit Lions: Would Jeff Okudah not starting Week 1 be cause for concern?

Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images) /

Should you be concerned if Jeff Okudah doesn’t start Week 1 for the Detroit Lions?

There was a lot of pre-draft debate on whether or not the Detroit Lions should take a cornerback with the third overall pick. According to general manager Bob Quinn, the answer was ‘yes’, as they selected Jeff Okudah out of Ohio State.

Okudah was the highest-drafted cornerback since the Seattle Seahawks took Shawn Springs third overall in 1997, and only the fourth cornerback drafted top-five in the last 10 years along with Denzel Ward, Jalen Ramsey, and Patrick Peterson.

With such great company, Lions fans were expecting Okudah to hit the ground running as well with the same career trajectory. If not better, after all, Okudah was selected higher than all of them.

But to much concern for some, the Lions are undecided if whether or not Okudah will be ready to start Week 1 of the regular season. An unimaginable thought on draft day.

So let’s first take a look at those other cornerbacks taken top-five and their rookie seasons to set some kind of bar here.

Denzel Ward, 2018, 4th Overall

Ward came in and started Week 1 for the Browns his rookie season, played the second-most snaps at cornerback, had the lowest passer-rating against (min 20 targets) on the team, the most interceptions (3) and pass deflections (11) for his position.

Ward was also selected for the 2018 AFC Pro-Bowl team.

Jalen Ramsey, 2016, 5th Overall

Ramsey came in and started Week 1 for the Jaguars in his rookie season, played 98.42% of the snaps (second-most on the team, most for a cornerback), and lead the team in interceptions (2) and pass deflections (14).

Unfortunately, Pro Football Reference didn’t start collecting the passer-rating against stat until 2018, but Pro Football Focus had Ramsey as the Jaguars’ highest-graded cornerback and 10th best in the NFL (80% snaps) with a 72.8 grade.

I also contend if Ramsey didn’t play for a 3-13 football team he would have made the Pro-Bowl his rookie season. His sophomore season the Jags went 10-6 and he was All-Pro.

Patrick Peterson, 2011, 5th Overall

Peterson came in and started Week 1 for the Cardinals in his rookie season, played the second-most snaps on defense, and had the second-most interceptions (2) and most pass deflections (13).

But there’s no stat like being an All-Pro cornerback as a rookie. That’s makes it worth taking a cornerback top five.

What about cornerbacks drafted Top-10?

Matter of fact, even 8/10 cornerbacks drafted in the top-10 in the last ten years started Week 1, and the ones who didn’t proved themselves since to not be worth the selection.

  • Denzel Ward ♦
  • Marshon Lattimore ♦
  • Jalen Ramsey ♦
  • Eli Apple ×
  • Justin Gilbert ×
  • Dee Milliner ♦
  • Stephon Gilmore ♦
  • Morris Claiborne ♦
  • Patrick Peterson ♦
  • Joe Haden ♦

Jeff Okudah, 2020, 3rd Overall

Now Okudah could still start Week 1, and, more importantly, excel just like his high draft pick counterparts. He could also not start until Week 4 and have the same success in the end.

Where Okudah gets a little benefit of the doubt in his Week 1 status is he’s had to deal with many COVID-restrictions this offseason, and there’s nothing that simulates being on the field against NFL speed for the first few times.

While Okudah is getting the short end of the stick compared to the other rookie cornerbacks listed in this article with a shortened offseason. He is also the highest-drafted of them all with the most expectations. Call it a wash.

Shortened camp doesn’t mean any camp either, the Lions will have a month of padded practice before Week 1 … and like the rest of the NFL, they have had constant virtual communication and practice throughout the summer. It’s not like the rookies were just handed the playbook two weeks ago.

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So for me, it’s still a little discouraging that Jeff Okudah hasn’t come out and at least made it perfectly clear he belongs above Amani Oruwariye and/or Desmond Trufant on the depth chart out the gate. Nothing against either of the other two, they just didn’t cost a third overall pick for their services.

Still … with the 2020 restrictions – not starting Week 1 would be a red flag, but not a real cause for concern, yet.