Expectations high for Jeff Okudah entering second season

Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

Anytime you use the third overall selection on a player in the NFL draft, the expectation is for said player to be a potential future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, most fall short of that honor and struggle to live up to their lofty draft hype. The Detroit Lions‘ Jeff Okudah certainly has suffered from the latter after his rookie season.

The cornerback out of Ohio State was widely considered to be the best defensive prospect outside of his Buckeye teammate, pass rusher Chase Young, in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class. One draft analyst believed Okudah would be an All-Pro within his rookie contract in the NFL.

Unfortunately, an offseason training program forced to be entirely virtual due to a worldwide pandemic appeared to stunt the growth of Okudah and the team’s other rookies. And the cancellation of the preseason prevented them from getting some valuable experience.

Those uncontrollable circumstances combined with the fact rookie cornerbacks are notorious for having difficult transitions making the leap from the college ranks to the pros, Okudah put up a dud of a first-year campaign.

The 22-year old cornerback ended up starting in just six games as a rookie. He recorded 47 total tackles, four tackles for loss, two pass deflections, and an interception in nine contests. Okudah missed seven games as a rookie due to several injuries he suffered including a lingering groin injury that landed him on Injured Reserve in Week 14.

Here’s what Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com wrote recently about Okudah’s unanswered questions going into his second season in Motown.

"“The Lions will be better on defense in 2021 if they can marry their rush and cover efforts. Okudah is expected to be a big part of the coverage side of things. Just how much has his game improved? Will he hit the ground running in OTAs and minicamp and use it as a springboard to a nice camp? There’s a lot of expectations placed on Okudah, but none higher than the expectations he has for himself.”"

With a new coaching staff in place, which includes new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former three-time Pro Bowl NFL corner himself, the hope is Okudah will be able to shake off his poor rookie season, start anew, and offer hope in the midst of another Motor City rebuild.

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Coming out of Ohio State, Jeff Okudah appeared to be the closest thing to a potential shutdown corner and one of the safest’s bets we’ve seen come out of the draft in years. But a poor rookie season has some fans questioning those lofty projections. Okudah can quickly prove his naysayers wrong with a strong offseason performance that points to a much better regular season one.