His first two seasons obviously have not gone well, but Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah can’t yet be declared a complete draft bust.
The Detroit Lions went into rare territory when they drafted cornerback Jeff Okudah third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was expected to be instant difference maker in a secondary that needed one, but injuries and the coaching of Matt Patricia led to a dismal rookie campaign (47 total tackles, one intereption in nine games, while allowing a completion rate north of 77 percent and a 118.0 passer rating in his coverage).
Okudah was in line to benefit more than many Lions players from a coaching change, with Aaron Glenn taking over the defense. But it was not to be. He suffered at torn Achilles’ in Week 1 of the 2021 season against the San Francisco 49ers, and missed the rest of the season.
Okudah’s social media posts suggest he’s making a nice recovery, and being cleared for training camp seems like it’ll be a formality. Having only played 10 of a 33 possible games, the 2022 campaign will be a pivotal one for Okudah.
Jeff Okudah cannot be declared a full-blown draft bust yet
Alex Kay of Bleacher Report listed each NFL team’s biggest draft bust of the last 10 years during the week heading into this year’s draft. For the Lions, Okudah is an easy mark based on how his two seasons have gone.
It may be too early to call Jeff Okudah a bust, but the clock is ticking for the cornerback to turn his career around.
Okudah appeared in nine games—starting six of them—as a rookie, allowing a completion rate of 77.4 percent against while giving up 594 yards and a pair of scores. PFF graded the performance out as a 42.5, an extremely poor mark for such a high draft pick.
He ended his 2020 season on injured reserve because of a core muscle issue and came back to start the 2021 campaign. Okudah’s return lasted just one game—a contest in which he allowed a concerning three of four passes thrown at him to be completed for 109 yards and a score—before a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his season.
Based on their first-round picks and some other finds further down the draft board, the Lions truly haven’t drafted all that badly over the last handful of years. So Okudah stands out, even if he hadn’t been a top-five overall pick. But it’s too early declare him an outright bust, and that Kay stepped back from it a bit fits.
If nothing has changed for Okudah a year from now, after he struggled or didn’t stay healthy during the 2022 season, then he can more concretely be called a bust. The Lions will also have made a decision on his fifth-year option for 2024 by 365 days from now. That will be the final indicator of how his 2022 season went, as well as telling for his future as a Lion–and perhaps in the NFL.
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