Lions’ draft pick LB Julian Okwara joins brother Romeo in Detroit

Julian Okwara has always been competitive with his older brother, Romeo. Now the brothers will play on the same team in Detroit.

It was a nice touch, as the TV cameras showed the brothers hugging when Julian’s name was announced when the Lions selected him in the third round of Friday’s NFL draft.

At the NFL Combine in February, Julian said it would be great to play for the Lions because he could get free rent from his brother. 

“It’s awesome I’ve always dreamed about this, it’s a dream come true, I’m pretty much speechless, still letting it marinate. I’ll wake up tomorrow and let it set in,’’ Julian Okwara said on a conference call on Friday night. 

And, yes, he still plans on a year of free rent from Romeo.

Okwara, who played at Notre Dame just like his brother, was the 67th overall pick of the Lions on Friday night.

Edge rusher was one of the Lions’ biggest needs and Okwara (6-4, 248 pounds) should be able to step in. 

“They’re getting a relentless pass rusher, a great defensive end who wreaks havoc in the backfield. I’m looking forward to learning on and off the field,’’ Okwara said. “I’m a dominant player, I’m looking forward to bringing a championship to Detroit.’’

Athlon Sports had him slotted as the fifth best outside linebacker in the draft.

Athlon reported: “He flashes exceptional skills in the pass rush, with good get-off and the heavy, active hands to beat blocks and enough flexibility to turn once he’s softened the edge.’’

In nine games for the Irish in 2019 he had five sacks, seven quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.

His brother Romeo, a defensive end, was undrafted. He originally signed with the N.Y. Giants and was claimed off the waiver wire by the Lions on Sept. 5, 2018. He had 15 starts and led the Lions with 7.5 sacks. In 2019 he had one start in 14 games with 1.5 sacks.

Earlier on Friday night the Lions drafted running back D’Andre Swift (Georgia) in the second round (35th overall).

Later in the third round, the Lions drafted offensive guard Jonah Jackson (Ohio State).

Detroit Lions draft RB D’Andre Swift out of Georgia in the second round

When running back D’Andre Swift was drafted by the Detroit Lions he thought of Barry Sanders, his favorite back of all time.

Sanders, the Hall of Famer, last played in 1998 and Swift, who grew up in Philadelphia, was born in 1999. Doesn’t matter.

“Everybody would always talk about him. I started watching film, highlights and looking at his stats and they were remarkable and unbelievable,’’ Swift said on a conference call on Friday night. “As I got older I tried to make my game to be like his in any way possible. I just love watching him.’’

No one would dare compare the two, but Swift does know a good running back when he sees one. He was ranked by many draft experts — including ESPN’s Mel Kiper — as the best running back in the draft.

The Lions nabbed the Georgia running back with their first pick in the second round (35th overall) on Friday night.  Swift ran for 1,218 yards on 196 carries last season (his junior year) for the Bulldogs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry with seven rushing touchdowns.

Swift said he had talked to the Lions a bit more than some other teams, but he had no idea if they were going to draft him.

“I didn’t know it was going to be, that’s the most crazy exciting part about it,’’ Swift said.

He said fans should know that he is “somebody who’s versatile, somebody’s who going to compete everyday, somebody who can do whatever the coach asks him to do.’’ He also said he’s first and foremost a leader.

He will join Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) and Bo Scarbrough (Alabama) in the all-SEC Lions’ backfield.

Detroit did not draft a running back in 2019, but selected Johnson in the second round (43rd overall) in 2018.

Johnson was the leading rusher in 2019 despite playing in just eight games with 3.6 yards per attempt, 403 total yards and three rushing touchdowns. Scarbrough was second averaging 4.2 yards per carry, 377 total yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Lions featured the 21st best running game in the NFL last season, averaging 103.1 yards per game. 

Athlon Sports ranked Swift as the top running back prospect calling him the most complete back in the draft class with outstanding vision and patience.

More from Athlon: “He shows good initial burst and runs with excellent balance through contact and enough speed to hit the home run after he slips a tackle. He’ll be an immediate contributor in the passing game as well. Swift has natural hands …”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper had mocked Swift to Green Bay late in the first round.

Swift joins three other Georgia Bulldogs on the Lions’ roster — Matthew Stafford, Isaac Nauta and John Atlkins.

Up next for the Lions on Friday night are two third-round picks — 67th and 85th overall.

Detroit started the draft on Thursday night by choosing cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. Rounds four through seven will take place Saturday starting at noon.

 

Detroit Lions draft CB Jeff Okudah who says his technique is his best asset

Cornerback was one-year starter at Ohio State

Jeff Okudah, the Lions first-round draft pick, says his best asset is his technique.

“I try to sharpen my sword every chance that I can I get,’’ Okudah said on a media conference call late Thursday night.

The 6-foot-1 cornerback, a one-year starter at Ohio State, was a natural fit for the Lions who had traded away Darius Slay to the Eagles.

Okudah, who is from Texas, was the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft on Thursday night following Joe Burrow who went to Cincinnati and Chase Young who was drafted by the Washington Redskins. 

“It was a feeling I can’t explain. All the hard work, finally I’m getting a chance to get my name called. It was really something I’m going to remember forever,’’ Okudah said.

He became the first cornerback that the Lions have drafted in the first round since 1998 when they selected Terry Fair.

“He’s very aggressive at the line of scrimmage. He’ll play with his hands. He’ll stay square. He’s patient. There’s not a lot of panic down field on some of the shots, really good in transition, has good makeup speed,” coach Matt Patricia said on a Zoom call with WJBK-Fox 2. “Just really overall, hard-working, tough kid, loves to tackle and really just loves the game. He loves to work at the game. Loves to just study every single week. He was outstanding with his recall on his opponents and things like that. Just knew that we had a kid that we thought would be a really good player for us.”

Okudah knew the Lions had interest but didn’t know for certain where he would land.

“I wasn’t really sure of anything coming into tonight because I went into the draft with an open mind, I know a lot of things happen on draft night that are out of your control,’’ Okudah said.

He thinks he can be a good fit in the Lions’ defense, which was ranked 31st in 2019, thanks to his background at Ohio State.

“At Ohio State we played a bunch of coverages. We played Cover 1, Cover 3 and some Cover 4,’’ Okudah said. “I think my background of playing a bunch of defenses. I’m pretty confident I can go in there and be able to learn the defense.’’ 

It’s going to be all different this spring with the possibility of no team workouts due to the coronavirus shutdowns. Even training camp and the season are question marks.

He wants to learn from veteran corner Desmond Trufant who was signed by Detroit as a free agent.

“I want to be around him a lot, I want to soak up everything he knows, things he wishes he could have done differently, I want to use his trial and testimonies to maybe avoid going through some of the same things,’’ Okudah said.

He was known at Ohio State as being studious and prepared. 

On SiriusXMNFL when asked if he was ready to be a lock-down corner for the Lions, Okudah said: “It’s definitely a big challenge. I’m just ready to go into that locker room, begin to earn my teammates’ respect and that’ll be the first step. We’ll go from there after that.’’

He can make an immediate impact, but the Lions will have a chance to work him in slowly since they signed Trufant.

Remember, Darius Slay only started four of the 13 games he played as a rookie. He wasn’t Big Play Slay right out of the gate. Obviously it didn’t mean the Lions had given up on him, but rather they gave him time to soak it all in. 

Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to learn in the NFL, but there’s no reason to think that Okudah is not up to the task. 

“It’s a crazy feeling being drafted that high. The Detroit Lions think a lot about me, I think it’s up to me to return that and give them all I have, go to work every single day with my teammates and be the best player I can be,’’ Okudah said.

The Lions will have three picks on Friday night in the second and third rounds — 35th overall (second), 67th overall (third) and 85th overall (from the Eagles.) Friday night’s festivities start at 7 p.m. The fourth through seventh rounds begin at noon on Saturday.

Detroit Lions draft CB Jeff Okudah out of Ohio State at third overall

No trades, no big surprise.

With the third overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, the Detroit Lions selected cornerback Jeff Okudah out of Ohio State.

He becomes the first cornerback that the Lions have drafted in the first round since 1998 when they selected Terry Fair.

Okudah has all the measurables (6-1, 205 pounds) and intangibles too.
He can make an immediate impact but the Lions will have a chance to work him in slowly since they signed free agent Desmond Trufant.

Remember, Darius Slay only started four of the 13 games he played as a rookie. Obviously it didn’t mean the Lions had given up on him, but rather they gave him time to soak it all in. 

Cornerback one of the toughest positions to learn in the NFL, but no reason to think that Okudah is not up to the task. 

The Lions will have three picks on Friday night in the second and third rounds — 35th overall (second), 67th overall (third) and 85th overall (from the Eagles.) Friday night’s festivities start at 7 p.m. The final rounds on Saturday begin at noon.

Five reasons the Detroit Lions will draft cornerback Jeff Okudah at third overall

Lions GM Bob Quinn has pulled a few surprises in his first four drafts with the Detroit Lions.

He opted for tight end T.J. Hockenson a year ago who was not a popular mock draft pick for the eighth overall pick. In 2018 offensive tackle Frank Ragnow was his top pick at 20th overall. In 2017, he drafted Jarrad Davis at 21st overall and in his first-ever draft in Detroit Taylor Decker got the nod with the 16th pick.

So what does Quinn have planned for this draft which starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday?

Good question. He has never drafted this high — the Lions own the No. 3 overall pick, along with eight other picks.

Cornerback Jeff Okudah seems to be the popular pick for the Lions in the first round. That doesn’t mean Quinn will necessarily draft him, but he certainly looks like the top contender in that spot.

Here are five reasons the Lions will draft Okudah:

1. The cornerback has the ideal size — he’s 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds — and the Ohio State credentials. He is set to become the 14th Buckeyes’ cornerback to be drafted in the first round since 1991. He’s also got speed. Scouts say he’s exceptionally quick and can close in on the ball. Face it, the kid has it all.

2. Quinn wants an impact player with that third overall pick. “We have enough guidance in that range that we think we can do that. … Our goal is to get impactful players throughout the draft, whether they’re starters in the middle rounds or just backup and role players and special teams players later in the draft. Our goals haven’t changed, the circumstances have obviously,’’ Quinn said in his pre-draft press conference via Zoom.

3. With the trade of Darius Slay to the Eagles, the Lions have a big need at cornerback. They signed free agent corners Desmond Trufant and Tony McRae. Trufant is not a match for Slay one-on-one. 

4. It’s not common to draft a cornerback early. In the past 19 drafts only five cornerbacks have been drafted in the top five. Quinn said he had no problem with doing so (he wasn’t talking about a specific player) if the prospect was worth the pick. “If we go back to free agency a year ago, we signed Justin Coleman to play nickel and we paid him like a starter because we feel like you need three starting level corners to have a productive defense. So, why teams have shied away, I can’t really answer that. You have to ask the teams that have passed. I’ve never been this high in the draft to experience that,’’ Quinn said. 

5. Okudah is the top of the deep class at cornerback. CBSSports.com says, “(He’s) the best coverage CB in this class and it’s not even close.’’ If Quinn doesn’t grab him with the third overall pick, he’ll have a chance to draft corners later in the draft. But Okudah is a game-changer and could step in right away. Remember Slay only started four of 13 games he played in his rookie season. He wasn’t Big-Play Slay out of the gate, but turned into one of the best in the NFL. That’s exactly what could happen with Okudah.

 

Lions GM Bob Quinn preps for an NFL draft unlike any other due to COVID-19

No one knows for certain if there will be an NFL season in the fall, but Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn is thinking positive.

“I do think there will be a season, but I haven’t been told that. I’m like you guys, I’m hoping that this pandemic gets cleared up as soon as possible and we can get back to life as normal,’’ Quinn said on a Zoom call with the Detroit media on Friday. “That’s including our home lives, our family lives, as well as our professional lives. If I had to guess, yes, but I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s something that we are waiting for the League to tell us about as we get further down the road.”

The three-day NFL draft will go on as scheduled starting on Thursday, April 23. The Lions have the No. 3 pick and eight others. However, it’s a virtual draft of sorts — no big stage and no awkward handshakes with Roger Goodell. The NFL commissioner will be working from his home office, same with Bob Quinn and the other NFL GMs.
Quinn says he is set up with a TV, three monitors, two laptops, a “draft phone” and his home phone. He also has two cell phones and a printer

“We can’t obviously replicate our draft board in my office here, so all the draft boards, needs boards, all of those things will be emailed, printed, they’ll probably be screen-shared on some platform that we’re still evaluating on which one we want to use next week – but we have two good options that we narrowed it down to,’’ Quinn said.

He also mentioned they will have backups on everything for his office and coach Matt Patricia’s too. Quinn has worked from home for a month and said everything is working out well.

The Lions will participate in the NFL’s mock draft on Monday to make sure all systems are a go.

Following the draft the Lions will hold three weeks of virtual workouts starting on April 27. Beyond that, everything is up in the air for the NFL and daily life. Quinn will wait for word from the League.

“I personally, and as an organization, we haven’t had a lot of dialogue with the League about the season or anything like that,’’ Quinn said. “The latest dialogue that we’ve really been concentrating on is like, how this draft is going to work, No. 1 and how the start of the virtual offseason program is going to work. So, we’ve had no communication about the season whatsoever.”

Life has changed so much with the COVID-19 pandemic that there is some talk the NFL could start the season without fans.

“I can’t really put into words how different it would be. It’s something that we would probably have to talk at length with our players about how to handle it, how to handle it without the atmosphere and the energy level. You’re going to have to bring that energy yourself,’’ Quinn said. “Just to be honest, I haven’t put a lot of thought into that.’’

Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford feels good, not concerned about back issues

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford said he’ll be ready to go for the offseason workouts.

The Detroit Lions quarterback is not worried about his back injury so he’s not sure why it should be an issue going forward.

“I’m not concerned about it, that should make people feel good. I’m the one living with the back. I feel very good about it,’’ Stafford said on Monday during the team locker clean-out period.

The 31-year-old quarterback missed the final eight games of the season with broken bones in his back. Sounds like the same back injury as a year ago, but he said it is not.

He’s confident the back won’t be an issue going forward because of how he feels right now. 

Stafford was off to a hot start — on pace for nearly 5,000 passing yards — before he was injured in the loss at the Oakland Raiders. 

He said the offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell felt like a good fit. 

“Felt like we were doing some good things, obviously always room for improvement but I was liking the direction we were going in,’’ Stafford said.

He wouldn’t project on when he could play but said he is throwing the ball.

“I feel really good which is good. I’ve had quite a bit of rest and I think I’ll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon to tell you the truth,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, just wrapped up his 11th season with the Lions. He doesn’t seem concerned about the window closing on his career. 

“I think every offseason is (important). If I was going to be 29 or 28, I  wouldn’t come into the offseason thinking ‘Oh, I’ve got years,”’ Stafford said. “When we come back here in April and again for training camp we’re trying to win right now. If that’s not our goal every season then I’m missing something because that’s what I think it is.’’