It’s still too early to label Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah a bust

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports /

Calling Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah a bust is a premature assumption.

I just thought about having my morning coffee, and why isn’t it already in my hand? It’s a what have you done for me lately kind of world these days, and we often become impatient as a society extremely quickly. Moments after placing our order, we want the meal. When an organization drafts a player, no. 3 overall, we expect to see a star-like presence instantly, but that’s not how it goes; every player, every situation is different.

Again, every situation is different. Do you think the San Francisco 49ers feel like Trey Lance, who was selected no. 3 overall, this past year is a bust? No way, but he failed to win the starting quarterback job over Jimmy Garappolo, who many consider an awful quarterback. Some players need time to develop; others like Ja’Marr Chase and Penei Sewell make the transition from college to the pros look effortless.

In Jeff Okudah’s case, he needs to find a way to remain healthy for an entire season.

It’s safe to say; we don’t know what the Detroit Lions have in Jeff Okudah.

Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, Okudah hasn’t been healthy enough to fully evaluate over the first two seasons of his professional career.

Okudah had been a standout corner at Ohio State, so much so that he’d go on to be the highest-drafted corner in NFL history. He shares that honor with fellow Buckeye alumn Shawn Springs, selected no. 3 overall by the Seattle Seahawks back in 1997.

I believe Okudah struggled to regain his confidence as a rookie, and when a cornerback loses their confidence, it’s such an uphill climb. The Lions expected to receive the most polished, NFL-ready cornerback in years, but when left on an island in former head coach Matt Patricia’s dreadful man-to-man defense, struggled mightily as a rookie. Patricia’s defense failed to generate any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leaving Detroit’s secondary on an island trying to cover NFL receivers for upwards of five seconds per play; good luck.

Okudah, along with every rookie in the 2020 class, joined their respected teams at the worst opportune time with COVID-19 reaping havoc across the world, which didn’t allow for NFL teams to experience their usual offseason programs.

This past season, the second-year corner suffered a ruptured Achilles injury in Week One of the regular season, this following just nine games as a rookie.

Okudah missed Week One of his rookie campaign with a hamstring injury and debuted in Week Two. Later in the year, he suffered a shoulder injury and eventually a groin injury in Week Eleven that would end his season.

Recently, head coach Dan Campbell mentioned Okudah is expected to hit the ground running heading into the offseason;

"“He’s been up here rehabbing, he’s been working. And look, he’s hungry. I mean, he’s ready to go,” Campbell told reporters at the end of his first season. “He’s ready to take the next step into his rehab and physically get ready to hit the offseason running. It’s good. Look, it’s one of those unfortunate things where injury has struck again.”"

The Detroit Lions ranked 23rd defending the pass this past season, yielding 244.7 yards per game but a league-worst 7.65 yards allowed per pass. Despite a lackluster season on the defensive side of things, the Lions did uncover a few positive contributors in the secondary, like undrafted rookies Jerry Jacobs and A.J. Parker. Also, Amani Oruwariye is quickly growing into a reliable number one outside option. Oruwariye led the Lions with six interceptions this past season.

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Being available counts, but again, we have not seen enough of Okudah to label him a bust. This upcoming season will be a make-or-break year for Okudah. In nine games Okudah has recorded 51 total tackles to go with one interception and three passes defended.