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 notes: Door remains open for Matthew Stafford to return this season

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford has missed four straight games and coach Matt Patricia said on Monday that he is still week to week with his back injury. 

Even though the Lions have played their way out of the playoffs, that doesn’t mean the Stafford won’t be back. 

Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we’re just going to kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

Stafford loves the game of football, he says it often and it’s genuine. He works hard year-round for a chance to play the games. He told the media weeks ago he realizes every time he takes the field he risks injury. Doesn’t matter, it’s the game he loves. 

Even though he is not able to participate in practice or in games, Stafford remains a factor in helping prepare the young quarterbacks, Jeff Driskel (who has been placed on injured reserve) and David Blough (who started his first game on Thanksgiving).

“I think he’s done a great job go all the way back to when we first started in the spring and him being here with the offseason stuff he had going on, he was really committed to the team,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Monday. “Now that he’s had this injury and it’s pushed him back again — he’s been here all the time, he’s been in the quarterback room going through the same preparation as if he was playing then helping those younger guys. If you ask Jeff and Dave they’ll tell you how helpful he’s been, he’s in their ear on the sideline, he’s looking through the pictures with them giving them extra coaching points, he’s doing a good job staying engaged.’’

The Lions will likely respect his wishes and let him play again this season but only if he is cleared by the medical staff. At least for now, they’ve left that door open.

Stafford had been playing extremely well even if the team was not making the most of it and winning. In eight games he has thrown for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. 

FLOWERS SACKS: Trey Flowers has been red-hot with five sacks in the Lions’ last five games (all losses). He’s got six for the season, just 1.5 shy of his career high (7.5) last season with the Patriots. Flowers doesn’t necessarily grade himself by statistics. “I’m very critical of myself and as far as, first of all, if we don’t get the win really nothing else matters. So if I don’t do enough for us to win, then I didn’t do enough to win,’’ Flowers said.

He played the his first four NFL seasons for the Patriots who were 50-14 in the regular season in that stretch. So playing for the Lions (3-8-1) is quite a change.

“It has been frustrating to come in work hard, work hard on the game plan, a lot of guys are working hard in the locker room and to come up short on the weekends is definitely frustrating,’’ Flowers said. “That’s part of this game, you’ve got to find ways to out-execute and out-compete.’’

SEASON OVER: Tight end T.J. Hockenson was placed on injured reserve due to the ankle injury he suffered late in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Bears. Hockenson, the Lions’ first-round pick, ended the season with 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. His first game, the season opener, was his best. That day he had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Patricia said it’s not known if Hockenson will need surgery on his ankle.

ADJUSTMENTS: With high-tech notebooks on the sidelines during games, adjustments are made continuously, but halftime adjustments are still key at least to some coaches. ESPN’s Dianna Rossini tweeted about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s adjustments in Pittsburgh’s win over the Browns.

She wrote: “Spoke to Steeler players about Mike Tomlin. Players on defense pointed to the adjustments made at half. They said he ‘straight up went high school football coach and drew up how they were going to defend Cleveland’ since they Browns showing a different look. ‘He saved the game.’’’

When Patricia was asked about making adjustments on Monday, he said, “I think the in-game adjustments are something that’s critical for us. I think there are games where those have been done at a high level and probably some games that we go back and we look at and say, ‘Of course we should have done this or maybe made this change.’’’

The Lions have led in all 12 of their games at some point, but have only held on for three wins.

 

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 34-30 loss to Kansas City Chiefs

DETROIT — Any talk during the week  of the Lions-Chiefs matchup being a statement game, did not come from the Lions players or coaches.

So it fits that while it appeared the Lions proved they could play with one of the NFL’s elite teams in the 34-30 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, the Lions (2-1-1) didn’t like that storyline.

“I don’t think we need to prove anything to anybody – we love the way we practice, the way we work, the way we come out and play. We’re a good football team, lost to a good football team today,’’ Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “There were a bunch of great plays made in this game, a couple bad plays be each team made in this game, that’s the way it goes in the NFL. It came down to the last 15 seconds, they were undefeated coming into this game, so were we. Somebody was going to have to lose, obviously want to win them all at home, was a good opportunity to beat a good team and we were darned close.’’

Coach Matt Patricia was happy with the fight he saw in his team. “This team doesn’t blink, it just keeps going forward,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to know about the Lions’ loss:

1. The Lions scored touchdowns on two of their five trips to the red zone, but on three others they managed just three points. In the first quarter on fourth-and-7 from the 7-yard line they settled for a Matt Prater field goal. Then in the third quarter Stafford fumbled while trying to make a run on third-and-5 from the 5. The Chiefs recovered. Then Kerryon Johnson fumbled on a first-and-goal from the 1, the ball was scooped up by the Chiefs’ Bashaud Breeland and run back 99 yards for a touchdown (see below). On his fumble, Stafford looked like he was going to make a throw. “I thought Marvin Hall had a chance in the back of the end zone at least a chance to throw it away but I really probably should of eaten it for a sack on third and goal,’’ Stafford said. “Chances of making that play not so good, chances of Prater making a chip shot probably really good. Obviously disappointed I put the ball on the ground.’’

2. Kerryon Johnson took full responsibility for that fumble that led to the Chiefs’ touchdown. “My perspective is, they called it a fumble. We lost three or seven points, which turned into seven points for them, we lost by three points, so obviously it hurt. Big play in the game, we had a lot of momentum going for us, kind of killed it,’’ Johnson said. “I take full responsibility for it.” In a pool report. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said: “The officials ruled on the field that they did not see the ball carrier down. They did not see a body part other than the hand or foot down.’’ That’s why they didn’t blow the whistle.

3. To have a chance to beat the Chiefs, Detroit’s run game had to improve and it did. Kerryon Johnson had 26 carries for 125 yards and the Lions finished with 186 rushing yards. “I think for us the run game, we were close last week maybe a couple blocks or details away, we’ll see what the tape looks like, it appears that that was cleaned up … I think the group in general, they want to get better, they’re trying to improve, that’s all you can ask for as a coach, we have to coach them better and keep working with them,’’ Patricia said. In the first three games this season, Johnson finished with 49, 41 and 36 yards.

4. The defense played well to hold quarterback Patrick Mahomes to just 315 passing yards his lowest total this season. Also, he had no passing touchdowns — he’s had at least three in each of the first three games this season.. However, the Lions’ defense would like at least one play back. With 1:55 left and the Lions leading 30-27, the Chiefs had a fourth-and-8 at their own 34. The Lions stop them and it’s likely they could hold on for a win. Instead Mahomes sees a big gap straight down the middle and runs 15 yards to get the first down. Eight plays later, Chiefs running back Damien Williams runs up the gut for the game-winning touchdown. Patricia took the blame on that one, saying he needs to coach better. To their credit their pressure on the previous play (third-and-8) forced an incomplete pass to Demarcus Robinson.

5. It’s not unusual for a Lions team (we’re talking in recent years) to deflate after a big play. That did not happen after that Chiefs touchdown that was returned after the Kerryon Johnson fumble. Stafford tried to help his teammates stay tough. “My point was we score a touchdown there, the game wasn’t going to end,’’ Stafford said. “We didn’t win the game if we scored a touchdown there. They don’t win the game because they scored a touchdown, there was a lot of football left. I think there were 9 or 10 minutes left in the third quarter. There was a lot of football left to play.’’

BONUS on INJURIES: Stafford was questionable going into the game with a hip injury. He didn’t want to talk about it afterward but said it wasn’t the same injury as last season. … Safety Quandre Diggs injured a hamstring trying to run down a Mahomes pass late in the first quarter and didn’t return. Patricia did not have an update after the game. … Tight end T.J. Hockenson had to be carted off the field after he landed on his shoulder and head leaping to avoid a tackle. Patricia said he was in good spirits afterward and did not go to the hospital.

UP NEXT: The Lions have a bye weekend, then will play at Green Bay (3-1) on Monday night, Oct. 14.