Late last week, we asked you all what your thoughts were on Year 2 of Jeff Okudah, the Detroit Lions’ third overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft. Under a new coaching staff that has already given him a new outlook on the game, Okudah certainly looked different from a confidence standpoint on the field. But will that translate to production?
There’s no doubt that his rookie season was a disappointment. Even considering first-year cornerbacks often struggle, not many expected things to be that bad. His PFF grade of 42.5 ranked 125th out of 136 qualifying cornerbacks, he allowed a passer rating of 112.0, and he just didn’t seem to improve at any point in the season.
But PFF offered some very important context to Okudah’s debut season. First, no rookie cornerback was put into tougher positions than the Lions’ third overall pick last year. Per PFF, 42.6 percent of Okudah’s coverage snaps were against a top-10 graded receiver, higher than any other rookie corner.
Highest % of Coverage Snaps coming against PFF's Top-10 Graded WRs in 2020 by Rookie CBs:— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) June 7, 2021
1. DET Jeff Okudah - 42.6%
2. MIN Harrison Hand - 42.2%
3. MIN Cameron Dantzler - 41.1%
4. MIN Jeff Gladney - 39.0%
It was trial by fire for the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft#OnePride pic.twitter.com/QzswdjiNGc
Part of that is the former regime forcing Okudah into tough positions by going man-heavy early in his career. Part of that is simply going to be life in the NFL for Okudah. He just so happens to be in a division with four of PFF’s top-graded receivers (Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Allen Robinson, and Adam Thielen).
It’s also worth noting that Okudah was much, much, much better when not going against elite receivers:
CB Jeff Okudah's PFF Grades in games w/Top-10 Graded WRs vs Rest of season:— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) June 11, 2021
Weeks 4, 6, 8, 10, 11 (No Top-10 WRs):
Weeks 2, 3, 7, 9 (Top-10 WRs):
The NFL schedule did not do Okudah any favors in his rookie year#OnePride https://t.co/9W3KeRMnFU
His coverage grade was 26.9 points higher and his overall PFF grade was 33.1 points higher when going against non-top-10 receivers.
None of this is to excuse Okudah’s play. The Lions took him third overall as a response to the fantastic receivers in the division. If he can’t increase that 28.0 coverage grade against top-10 receivers to an acceptable level, then he isn’t as advertised. Still, this does explain at least a little why things were so rough for him from the beginning.
- I’m just gonna let this one sit here on its own.
"The secret weapon in New England this year might very well be Matt Patricia. I know how that statement will go over in Detroit. I don't care. Patricia has been very involved in NE's 2021 off-season moves & is as trusted & influential a sounding board in the building." -@PSchrags pic.twitter.com/NpiSztKsNv— GMFB (@gmfb) June 15, 2021
- If you haven’t caught up on the rounds Lions general manager Brad Holmes did with the media last week, here are the can’t-miss articles from those conversations: MLive, Detroit News (Part 1, Part 2), The Athletic
- Jamaal Williams had an emotional conversation with Latoya Jones, a custodian from the Detroit Lions Academy. Jones was named Detroit’s MVP—Most Valuable Protector—for her work in keeping the academy clean and sanitized during the pandemic.
We teamed up with @Microban24 & @jswaggdaddy to honor one of Detroit’s Most Valuable Protectors, Latoya Jones, a sanitization worker from @DetLionsAcad! As part of the #Microban24MVP program, Latoya will get an exclusive VIP NFL experience. Thanks for all you do, Latoya! pic.twitter.com/1zFKAoIqaJ— Detroit Lions (@Lions) June 15, 2021
- Eric Woodyard of ESPN has a nice story on Amon-Ra St. Brown, his family, and how he’s built a “boulder on his shoulder.”
- Sad news for the Lions family. Former offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead passed away this week. He was only 49.
We are saddened to learn of the passing of Hess Hempstead. After retiring from the Detroit Lions, he was a fixture at events and Charlotte Chapter activities, always with a smile and willingness to help his #NFLPAFraternity and community. He will be missed by all who knew him. pic.twitter.com/vNGunsCMia— NFLPA Former Players (@NFLPAFmrPlayers) June 14, 2021