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.

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 Darius Slay on Pro Bowl, contract situation, Matt Patricia and more

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay said it doesn’t get old being named to the Pro Bowl, even for the third time.

“I told my kids the other day we were going to DisneyWorld,  free too, we love that,’’ the Detroit Lions cornerback said on Wednesday.

Slay appreciates that he wasn’t in the top 10 of fan voting, but the players and coaches know his value so they put him over the top.

“Coaches watch film enough, players do as well. I appreciate the respect they gave me because I go out there and work hard. I compete at a high level,” Slay said.

Five more thoughts from Slay:

1. Slay, whose contract expires after the 2020 season, was much more open to talking about the Pro Bowl than his contract situation. He sat out the offseason workouts last spring aiming to get a new deal from the Lions without any results. Will he sit out again? It’s up to him and his agent but he didn’t have an answer ready. One thing is for certain, when he signs a new contract — no matter which team it’s with — Slay has his eye on a Rolls-Royce truck. He joked he might even have a driver bring him to practice on the first day. When asked what three-time Pro Bowl corners make, Slay had a short answer: “Hoo-hoo-hoo!”

2. Slay didn’t have much to say about the announcement on Tuesday that Matt Patricia will be back next season. “II thought it was already automatic,’’ Slay said. He added that the players don’t worry or talk about it. “Not really that’s their personal business. I just play. He could be up and gone, I could be up and gone.’’

3. The expectations from ownership next season are that the Lions are a playoff contender. Slay said he thought that was the goal of every team. “Some of us have been here with Patricia for two years going on three, we’ve got a better understanding of him as a coach and his program that’s basically where we’re at,’’ Slay said.

4. The cornerback said the key to improving is finishing and he puts that on the players not the coaches. “We’ve been in there every game, fourth quarter get in there, don’t finish. Definitely on the defensive end we have to finish,’’ Slay said. “Coaches doing a good job putting us in the predicaments at practice, we’ve just got to execute as players. I’m mean we’re out there. They tell us the play, obviously it’s mostly on us, it’s a team effort. As a player and me personally I take it to the chest, I feel like it’s out on the field, so we’re the ones who could fix it.’’

5. Slay was wearing a chain with a pendant photo of his grandmother. “My baby, my heart and she raised me. Yes, it’s so nice, it’s my angel,’’ Slay said.