10 IN 10: DETROIT LIONS
There are now just days left until the NFL Draft. This new ‘10 in 10’ series will look at each team picking in the top ten, having started with the Cleveland Browns last Tuesday and finishing with the Cincinnati Bengals this Thursday. For a more considered, in-depth look at the perfect picks for each team check out the good work of my fellow contributors at The Touchdown here:
For the purposes of simplicity, no trades will be considered in this countdown unless they occur in the days leading up to the draft itself. Each article will look at individual team needs before deciding on the right pick for each franchise, whilst also considering some alternatives at that spot.
#3: DETROIT LIONS
No bones about it, the Lions were poor in 2019. When Matt Stafford suffered his annual injury under center it was clear that Detroit would be picking early in this year’s draft. A prime candidate to trade down with a quarterback-hungry franchise, they may get their man and some high round picks in return.
Despite Detroit’s needs across several positions, this is an easy decision. The Lions should pick defensive back Jeff Okudah from Ohio State. This guy is the most exciting cornerback to enter the league since Jalen Ramsey. If anything, he is more polished than Ramsey was at this stage in his career. He is lightning quick, with excellent feet and impressive reach. Aged just 21, Okudah is going to have a stellar career in the NFL.
THE 'SHUTDOWN CORNER'
Ohio State have sent 10 cornerbacks to the NFL this century, double that of any other college programme. Okudah will be the 11th, and potentially the best yet. In 2019, he broke up 9 passes, made 3 interceptions, 34 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Impressive numbers considering that opposing teams did their best to avoid throwing in his direction.
Okudah is strongest when placed in man coverage – his explosive speed and quick feet means that wide receivers struggle to break free of him. His ball skills are second to none, and at the NFL Combine he posted the longest broad jump (135 inches) and highest vertical jump (41 inches). A 4.48 second 40 yard dash means that he will be able to keep up with most deep threats in the league. The former Buckeye has both the size and speed to frustrate wideouts across the NFL for years to come.
FINDING INSPIRATION IN TRAGEDY
Even better for Detroit is if Miami or the Chargers are willing to trade up to the #3 spot to get their future quarterback. Okudah could easily be sitting there at pick #5 or #6 for the Lions to swoop, and they’ll be able to address other needs later on. Draft night will be a special but bittersweet night for the Texan – he lost his mother to lymphoma in 2017, before signing with Ohio State. He often references the inspiration he took from her fight with the disease. Thursday will be the culmination of years of hard work, determination and heartache for the college game’s best defensive back.
There are no sure things when it comes to the Draft, but Jeff Okudah is as close as you can get. If by some bizarre set of circumstances, fellow Buckeye Chase Young is on the board when Detroit come to pick, then they could have a real headache over who to select. Both are blue chip prospects in high value positions, and positions that the Lions need to improve at. However, if the Washington Redskins select Young as many have predicted, the choice becomes simple.
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD