Jeff Okudah did not enjoy the success many thought he would find entering the 2020 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions selected the Ohio State product third overall with expectations for Okudah to become the team’s lockdown corner.
He struggled during his rookie campaign, allowing 38 receptions on 50 targets according to Pro Football Focus. In his second season, Okudah was limited to just one game due to a ruptured Achilles. Year three was a step forward. Statistically and on tape, 2022 was the best season of the 24-year-old’s career. However, it was still full of its ups and downs.
The Lions added cornerback talent early during free agency. Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton was the team’s first outside signing. He signed a three-year contract with Detroit. Sutton offers reliable cornerback play both on the outside and in the slot. The team also added Emmanuel Moseley from the San Fransisco 49ers on a one-year deal.
Okudah quickly became expendable after Sutton and Moseley signed. With both guys pegged as likely starters for next season, rumors began to swirl of Okudah potentially being on the move. Just a little over two weeks before the NFL Draft, the Lions moved off of Okudah and his $5 million in guarantees this season.
NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported the Detroit Lions traded Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for the team’s fifth round pick in the upcoming draft.
Okudah joins a Falcons cornerback room with A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward and former Lions teammate Mike Hughes. The 33-year-old Hayward has regressed in recent seasons, and Okudah has a chance to push him for the starting spot opposite Terrell.
The Detroit Lions have an opening to draft a cornerback
If it was not already obvious the Lions were looking to add cornerback talent in this year’s draft, it is now. Detroit owns the sixth, 18th, 48th, 55th and 81st picks in the 2023 draft. After trading Okudah, corner is in play for any of those five picks in the first three rounds.
Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez are in play with the sixth overall pick. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and Maryland’s Deonte Banks are names to keep an eye on at 18. Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson, Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes and Kansas State’s Julius Brents are names to watch in the second round.
Whether they draft a cornerback high or not, the Lions are set to enter the 2023 season with an upgraded secondary. Sutton, Moseley and Jacobs form a reliable trio at the cornerback position. Kerby Joseph, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Tracy Walker are proven talents at safety.
Okudah was trending in a positive direction. However, he never lived up to the billing as the No. three pick for Detroit. Maybe a change of scenery in Atlanta could do him some good. A fifth-round pick is not much for someone drafted as high as Okudah, but the Lions move off a decently sized cap hit. Okudah’s departure opens the door for more talent to be added in the draft.
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