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Jeff Okudah

Jeff Okudah Facing Make-or-Break Season in 2022

  • Ryan Fowler
  • May 19, 2022
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Jeff Okudah is just 23 years old, but it’s been a long trek up a slippery slope for the former third-overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft. A fluid, aggressive athlete, Okudah was once viewed as a cornerstone prospect on defense. As we enter the 2022 season, his expectations have gone from a game-changing shutdown corner to bleak.

With just ten games played in two seasons, Okudah has nowhere to go but up. A highly touted prospect out of Ohio State, the 6-foot-1 cornerback was initially graded as one of the best prospects in his draft class; a potentially dominant boundary corner with all the intangibles to progress into one of the NFL’s elite. Two pro campaigns have come and gone, and Okudah has offered nothing to warrant his high selection, mainly because of injuries.

Hope remains for Okudah, however. His development has been a storyline at Lions’ workouts this week, setting up what may be a make-or-break season for him. 

Detroit needs a breakout season from Okudah in 2022. Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Mike Hughes, and AJ Parker will challenge for substantial snaps in the secondary this fall, and while they’re fine players, Okudah offers the most upside. It’s that upside that can turn the Lions’ defensive backfield from an average group into a good one. But the ‘bust’ narrative will intensify if he suffers another injury setback or plays poorly.

I expect Jeff Okudah to play well. Sure, playing the corner spot at the NFL level at a young age is like drinking water out of a fire hose, but the Lions have no choice; they have to keep Okudah on the field and determine whether he is their lockdown cornerback of the future. And the only way Okudah will answer that question is by performing well against receivers like DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, and Justin Jefferson, who he’ll face in the first three games this season.

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Ryan Fowler