Jeff Okudah did not come into the NFL with the same expectations as most other defensive backs.
Picked number three overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Okudah joined Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions with a heap of expectations and a difficult task of becoming a lockdown corner on a defense that ranked 26th in the NFL overall the previous season, giving up 4,551 passing yards — most in the NFL.
Since then, the Lions haven’t exactly flourished on defense, and Okudah has been labeled a “bust” in some circles, playing nine games during his rookie season and just one game in 2021.
Now fully healed from a left achilles injury that robbed him of his 2021 season, Okudah is turning heads in year three of his Detroit Lions NFL odyssey.
He has 18 total tackles so far on the season including 14 solo, and has gone up against three of the top-ranked and most talented pass catches in the league so far.
Okudah has faced DeVonta Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles, Terry McLaurin of the Washington Commanders, and most recently Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, who had been receiving praise as perhaps the best pass-catcher in the entire league heading into Sunday’s matchup in Minneapolis.
Their stats against the former Ohio State Buckeye are as follows:
Smith- 0 catches for 0 yards.
McLaurin- 2 catches for 22 yards.
Jefferson- 3 catches for 14 yards.
Okudah wasn’t the only player responsible for covering Jefferson according to the Detroit Free Press, but he was the player shadowing him for most of the game.
“Okudah has emerged as the Lions’ number one cornerback,” the website stated, adding him to their “stock up” section for Monday’s edition among Lions players.
Okudah credits his fanatical attention to film study to his fast start for the 2022 season.
His injury set him back in countless ways, but it may have helped him to unlock a new superpower in the process.
“I think like the reality is, I mean, I haven’t got the same amount of reps as like the normal three-year player so I have a lot to catch up in the film room and in the mental part of the game that you just get when you get on the field,” Okudah said to the Free Press.
“So I’m trying to burn the midnight oil, as they say, put in the extra work.”
Okudah was in Jefferson’s hip pocket all day, showing off the skills that made him such a high draft pick in the first place.
He looks locked in and ready to go on each snap, and it’s paid off so far.
If this continues, the Lions could have themselves an All-Pro caliber cornerback for years to come, something Patricia and the team first hoped for when they drafted him back in 2020 out of Columbus.
Okudah also shut down the former Alabama star Smith as well, as the video below shows.