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Notes: Jeff Okudah had the toughest responsibility of any rookie CB in 2020

This puts into context Okudah’s rough rookie year.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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.

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:

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.

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