Detroit Lions: Will Jeff Okudah live up to his draft pick in 2021?

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

Back at the start of 2020, after the Detroit Lions traded star corner Darius Slay to the Eagles, the writing was on the wall. For months we knew that with the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Detroit was destined to select Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. He was expected to step right into a starting role and contribute from day one.

Except, this rookie season went off-script rather quickly. In fact, Okudah wouldn’t even play in week one against Chicago due to injury. He came into his first career game in week two at less than 100%, and he was thrown to the wolves immediately. As he was tasked by the coaching staff to cover (or at least try to) Packers star wideout Davante Adams.

That went about as well as you would expect, and Okudah’s rookie year was marred by injuries and lackluster play due to being thrown into action by a coaching staff that didn’t properly teach him how to be a corner at the NFL level.

After a rookie season that was considered a disappointment by many, Okudah got surgery to repair an injured groin that had been lingering for a majority of the season. As for the Lions, they finished the season with a historically bad passing defense. They closed the book on the Matt Patricia/Bob Quinn era, as the pair were let go after the thanksgiving massacre against the Texans.

As a new Lions regime stepped in, two very important names appeared on the Detroit Lions coaching staff that will be very beneficial to a young secondary in the motor city. Those names being defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant.

Glenn came over from New Orleans, he was their secondary coach and helped the Saints to a top-five ranking in passing yards allowed, and the Saints were tied for the league lead in interceptions with 18. Glenn, a former All-Pro corner in his own right, has been credited with his work in developing the Saints secondary into the unit it is today. And as a bonus, he actually coached Jeff Okudah back in high school for 7-on-7’s.

Pleasant was the cornerback’s coach with the Rams last year, who boasted a very talented secondary featuring Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best corner in the league. Pleasant was considered to be one of the best cornerback coaches in the league, and now he will try to help turn this young Detroit secondary into a respectable unit.

As for Jeff Okudah, he will have a lot more resources at his disposal, and he himself spoke to the fact that he wishes he knew some of what Pleasant and Glenn have taught him during his rookie year. And as his health trends towards 100%, he should be good to go for training camp and the season that follows.

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Will Jeff Okudah magically turn into one of the best corners in the league? No probably not. However, he should be in a better position to flash the talent that made him a star at Ohio State, and a player worthy of the third overall pick.