The Case For Jeffrey Okudah To Washington At No. 2

Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select an elite Ohio State defender.

The question is which one.

It's been a long and winding road to get me here. Chase Young has never been out of my top-two prospects; Jeffrey Okudah was in the 20s after his 2018 tape illustrated some over-aggressive and foolhardy zone habits. However, Okudah's 2019 film is spotless, and I've come all the way around. Okudah is the best cornerback prospect since Jalen Ramsey.

Washington is likely going to take Young at second overall. He's the elite Ohio State defender. But with Okudah as one of the top prospects in the class, I can't help but wonder: Why isn't he getting talked about as a potential pick at No. 2?

Which Position Does Washington Need More?

After cutting Josh Norman and trading Quinton Dunbar, the cornerback room includes quality slot and average outside corner Kendall Fuller, depth piece Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland, a developmental slot player. They added Ronald Darby in free agency, sure -- but he can't be expected to be healthy or productive at this stage in his career. There’s also the starting trio of Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan and Ryan Anderson. Kerrigan is getting older, and both he and Anderson are in contract years. Washington’s situation at corner is bad.

But it’s not this simple. Teams cannot draft based solely on need; that's how you chase busts and build incomplete rosters.

Who Is A Better Player?

Better players are more valuable, all other things equal — of course, not all other things are equal, but we'll get to that in a second. If Young or Okudah were remarkably, demonstrably better than the other, it's likely that player would be more valuable, positional considerations cast aside.

So, who's better: Young or Okudah?

Most, including myself, have Young ranked as the top player in the class and even those who don't likely still have him above Okudah. However, this is why numerical grading and tiers are critical: both Okudah (third overall) and Young (first overall) grade as blue-chip prospects and accordingly have the same pro projection: decade-long starters with All-Pro ability.

While Young has edged Okudah on an ordinal list, the same wouldn't be true on a draft board in a war room. They would be ranked in the same tier and actionable options at any pick.

Which Position Is More Valuable?

A blue-chip corner and blue-chip EDGE are going to be the fifth-best at their position in the NFL for the next 10 years. Who brings more value to their defense? Who adds more to the team?

This question dominated much of the last offseason: coverage versus pass rush. Pro Football Focus instigated and largely carried that conversation across the landscape over the last couple of years, and it's forced a recalibration in our perception of how defenses flow.

Good pass rushes speed up a quarterback's time to throw; good coverage defenders slow it down. As the league moves to spread style offenses that distribute the ball quickly and on high-percentage passes, the cover man corner is becoming more valuable. Without quality coverage, passing offenses can beat pass rushes by playing the quick game and getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands before the pass rush arrives.

From a team-building perspective, however, this argument grows weaker. Coverage players tend to be more volatile than pass-rush players. Those corners with an elite season one year regress harder and more often than elite pass rushers. It's extremely difficult to build a defense from the secondary forward because of how hard it is to find five or more consistent, quality cover defenders.

Even if teams are convinced that coverage matters more than pass rush — which is far from a consensus opinion — it's still difficult to integrate it into team-building value decisions. An elite Okudah is more valuable than an elite Young, but Okudah is less likely to be as elite as frequently for as long.

Who Is Picked?

I don't really know; the important thing is that it should be a conversation. A team has to be certain that either (1) Young is a significantly better player than Okudah or (2) pass rush is significantly more valuable than coverage in order to draft Young over Okudah without thinking twice. I am strongly suspicious of both claims.

We should hesitate with all of our absolutes here. Washington needs a corner now far more than it needs an EDGE, but that comparison would be completely different even a year from now — aren't teams supposed to draft toward the future? Coverage is more valuable than pass rush, but haven't Ron Rivera's teams always done well with Day 2 (or later) cornerbacks?

This is a far more complex decision than it's being made out to be, and if I were calling the shots, I wouldn't know where I was landing just two weeks out from the draft. 

I know the consensus will surely remain Young but think about it: couldn't Okudah be in the running at No. 2 overall?

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Director of Special Projects

Director of Special Projects and Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast. The 3-Wide Raven.

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