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.