Former Lions Top Pick Projected to Shed Bust Label This Season

Jeff Okudah

Getty Jeff Okudah celebrates a big play for the Lions.

It might be more than unfair to call Detroit Lions’ cornerback Jeff Okudah a bust given the short amount of time he’s been in the league, but that’s been what many have been tempted to say about the former top-five selection after a rough rookie year.

Okudah has a new staff and a new opportunity he is downright fired up about, which is good to see. Now, many see him as having the potential to prove all the doubters wrong with a huge season on the field.

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Recently, Pro Football Focus took a look at predicting the sophomore players who disappointed in 2020 that could shed their potential bust labels in 2021. Writer Chris Roling had Okudah tops on the list for the Lions, and believes there could be a significant turnaround on the horizon for the young defender thanks to his talent and Detroit’s new coaching staff.

He wrote:

“Huge expectations accompanied Jeff Okudah to the NFL. He wasn’t just a high-profile player coming from Ohio State—rather, the Detroit Lions saw fit to make him the third overall pick and tabbed him with helping to fix Matt Patricia’s defense.

Okudah struggled out of the gates, though, finishing with a 42.5 Pro Football Focus grade after allowing 38 receptions on 50 targets. That came while playing just 41 percent of the defense’s snaps over nine games and six starts.

But plenty of hope remains for Okudah. The elite athleticism that made him such a high pick will still help him hold his own in the pros. And according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, he needed surgery in December for a groin issue that had apparently hampered him his entire rookie season.

Okudah himself has already commented on how much smoother things seem under new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and based on how almost everyone played under the now-fired staff from a season ago, there’s plenty of reason to believe in Okudah.”

Injury as well as an unprecedented offseason may have worked against Okudah, but it’s true that he could be better equipped to play a bigger and more consistent role on the defense in the coming years. Seeing what he offers on the field in 2021 will give folks a good idea of what to expect in the coming years.

It’s possible Okudah may yet rally to surprise some of his biggest doubters.

Okudah Thankful for Fresh Start With New Staff

One of the biggest reasons that Okudah is ready for his next chapter in Detroit is due to the team’s new staff. The Lions hired Aaron Glenn as defensive coordinator, and he has a history with Okudah. Aubrey Pleasant comes in as the new defensive backs coach, and Okudah is ready to work with him as well. Both of those hires have Okudah downright excited to get on the field for the 2021 season when it starts.

While speaking with the media, Okudah explained that he was very excited to be working with a couple coaches who are teaching him some big things.

He said:

“It means everything to me, just sitting down with them in the first few meetings, I was picking up so much from them that I thought to myself it would have just been nice to have these tools in my toolbox going into my rookie year. But, i’m still grateful having them going into my second-year. It’s only been two to three months and we still have so much work to do.”

To have Okudah being given the right coaching is huge for his future with the team, and something which will only be a plus for his future. It could help him turn things around quicker.

Why Jeff Okudah Can Improve for Lions

If there’s one thing that can be said, it’s Okudah has wasted no time getting back into lab trying to improve quickly from the frustration of last season. Entering the 2020 draft, Okudah was described as a football junkie by his Ohio State coaches Okudah isn’t likely to burn the tape from his rookie debut season on the field, but rather use it to improve and study it intently to find out what he can do better. It’s likely he will be even more frustrated by his debut this season than the angriest fans will be.

Last offseason, Okudah was said to already be studying wideouts he will match wits with routinely such as Davante Adams. Natrually, Adams burned him this past season, but Okudah was learning on the job, so the reality was things would always get worse before they got better. In time, as Okudah gains more confidence and understands the league more, some modest strides could be expected to be made. Coaching could also help him accomplish this faster.

The significant bet is Okudah will improve greatly in time following what was a rough debut in 2021, and many even see that as being something to watch for next year.

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