Lions Land Superstar From Division Rival Within New 2020 Re-Draft

Justin Jefferson

Getty Justin Jefferson signals for a first down playing the Lions in 2021.

Hindsight is always 20-20, and that might only be proven as more true when considering the Detroit Lions’ fate during the 2020 NFL draft.

Just two years ago, the Lions had the third-overall pick, and they were wide open in terms of the direction they could go. With Matthew Stafford still on the roster, a quarterback felt unlikely, even though it could seemingly have come in handy now. Most believed that in a draft many thought was devoid of playmakers that defense should be the pick. Indeed it was in the form of cornerback Jeff Okudah.

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Okudah came to Detroit from Ohio State where he was a key cog on a solid defensive team. He was looked upon as a solid player in man coverage from day one, which made him an elite option for a Lions team that was devoid of playmakers at cornerback.

So far, though, Okudah has struggled in a big way playing for Detroit. The cornerback collected only 1 interception as a rookie, and has seen injuries doom his first two seasons in the league. That has led some to proclaim him a bust, and many others to believe the Lions should have taken someone else when they had the chance to pick in 2020.

A new Bleacher Report piece which was dedicated to a 2020 re-draft shows that outcome. Writer Alex Ballentine has the Lions going with Justin Jefferson, eventually a pick of the rival Minnesota Vikings, with the third-overall selection. As for why, Ballentine admitted Jefferson has some fantastic talent, but also conceded Detroit’s great need at the position.

“Outside of Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was a surprise rookie success with 90 catches for 912 yards, there aren’t a lot of exciting receivers on the Lions’ roster right now. That would change with Jefferson in tow,” Ballentine wrote.

That has changed more than a bit with the addition of Jameson Williams, but Williams will also be fighting a nagging ACL recovery which could slow his transition to the league. Jefferson would offer the Lions an electric deep threat to go with St. Brown.

At the time, Jefferson was a bit overlooked out of LSU, but still went 22nd in the draft. If teams were looking at things now, though, there is no question he could find a way to go much higher.

Okudah Grinding Toward 2022 Comeback

It’s been mostly health that has caused Okudah’s early career struggles, but he is looking to get right in 2022. Off last season’s untimely ACL injury, Okudah has been working harder than ever to come back strong for the 2022 season. He knows the importance of the year not only for himself to try and shed such labels from the media, but also the team as well. A resurgent Okudah would give the Lions major depth at cornerback, and could also provide the team another stable player with which to rely on at a key position on the field.

So far, Okudah looks great as some of the videos posted show him moving around fluidly and looking well. The next step for Okudah is finding a way to elevate his play and show an understanding of the team’s defense. Unfortunately, he was robbed of the chance to do this during the lost 2021 season, when that growth could have played out from Week 1 until Week 17 for Detroit. The Lions hope that they don’t have to ponder a future without Okudah for much longer, and he starts to resemble the third-overall pick.

Jefferson’s Stats & Highlights

On the other hand, it’s impossible to see this re-draft and not wonder what the Lions could be if they had Jefferson in the fold. Since coming into the league, the young pass catcher has looked like the NFL’s next elite deep ball wide receiver and a true hit for the Vikings. Since coming into the NFL, Jefferson has put up 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air. His highlight reel is very electric and fun to watch:

Justin Jefferson FULL Rookie Highlights(2020)Every highlight from Justin Jefferson's 2020-2021 NFL season! Subscribe for more highlights!2021-01-03T22:58:31Z

In this re-draft, the Lions jump at the chance to nab a player like Jefferson. Considering the struggles of their offense the last few years and the problems they’ve had with Okudah, that might not have been the worst outcome whatsoever.

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