There was no question the Detroit Lions would take a defensive player with their first-round pick. It was just a question of who that player would be. After months of speculation, the Lions have their answer: Jeff Okudah.
In the last six years, the Detroit Lions have taken just one defensive player in the first round—Jarrad Davis in 2017. In retrospect, perhaps they should have invested more on that side of the ball; they have submitted a negative point differential in four of the last five seasons. Under the management of Bob Quinn, the Lions have an overall losing record. Tonight, in the first virtual NFL Draft, they added a new look on defense in the form of Jeff Okudah.
In the wake of losing Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles last month, the Lions had a hole to fill in the secondary. Even with a Pro Bowler in Slay, the Lions were last in the league in interceptions while giving up the most total yards in 2019. Okudah brings a defensive reliability which should make up somewhat for Slay’s absence. Why grade the selection only an A-? It would have been nice to add some extra capital by trading down, as was the consistent rumor; however, the trade simply was not there. This is no slight against Okudah. He is a smart addition to the defense, and head coach, Matt Patricia should be happy to have him.
In 35 games with Ohio State, Okudah defended 18 passes and notched three interceptions. He stepped up on the big stage, too. In the 2019 Rose Bowl against Washington, he defended two passes and added five tackles. He repeated this performance in the Fiesta Bowl a year later in a losing effort to Clemson. He will most likely take over as lead CB by the start of the next season–whenever that may be.
Shortly after the Lions traded Darius Slay, they signed Desmond Trufant, a former Atlanta Falcon cornerback. In all likelihood, Trufant and Okudah will line up on opposite sides of the defensive backfield, which means Justin Coleman will back up the two. The defensive shortcomings for the Lions do not end there, though: the line also needs work.
Since they passed on Derrick Brown–who ultimately went to Carolina–expect them to add a lineman sometime in the next round or two. The Detroit Lions ended last season ranked 28th of 32 teams in defense DVOA from Football Outsiders. In practical terms, opponents outscored them by 82 points, while only six teams gave up more points throughout the year. Adding an excellent defensive corner like Jeff Okudah is hopefully a step in the right direction.