With the 146th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Amani Oruwariye out of Penn State. Oruwariye was one of TDN’s top cornerbacks entering the draft, earning a first-round grade from lead scout Kyle Crabbs. The following season, Detroit selected another cornerback, this time with the third overall pick. Jeff Okudah was selected as the savior of the Lions’ secondary. After a tough, injury-filled first two seasons, Okudah’s career is off to a slow start. Oruwariye, who was also off to a slow start to his pro career, is now taking advantage of his opportunities.
Oruwariye played in seven and started two games his rookie season. He was targeted 18 times, allowing 14 receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns. He did reel in two interceptions. As a sophomore, he was a full-time starter with a mixed bag of results. He allowed 42 receptions on 75 targets for 720 yards and three more touchdown passes.
Fast forward to this season, the third-year cornerback has improved and the game is slowing down for him. He is reading and reacting at a faster pace than earlier in his career. Leading into the Lions’ Week 15 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, Oruwariye allowed less than 54% completion percentage against him for 434 yards all while reeling in five interceptions.
Standing at 6-foot-1 with 31 ⅛-inch arms, Oruwariye has the length to match up against the bigger receivers the NFL has to offer. This was on display against A.J. Green during Detroit’s upset victory. Oruwariye was patient, calculated, and showcased reactionary athleticism to make an incredible diving interception.
This play was Oruwariye’s sixth interception of the season, ranking third in the NFL.
Was Sunday his national breakout? That can be said! His masterful performance against the Cardinals has generated more buzz and attention. He is developing the skill of baiting quarterbacks and cashing in on their mistakes.
Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to transition from college to the pros. The development of Oruwariye has been nothing short of satisfying. He is comfortable in press and off-man coverage, properly using leverage to tighten throwing lanes. His ability to click and close from zone coverage is great to see. His development allows Okudah to return on the right timeline and find his confidence without being forced to defend the opposing team’s WR1.
Oruwariye is not elite by any means, but he has the goods—he’s battle-tested and proven that so far this season. He deserves more recognition with a few games left on the schedule. Detroit has a possible culture-changing head coach in Dan Campbell, a potential No. 1 cornerback, and a tough/gritty ball club. Oruwariye is headed toward a bright future in the Motor City.