5 things for Lions fans to know about Jeffrey Okudah: 'We knew he was special'

Pete Thamel
·3 min read

Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah went to the Detroit Lions with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Here are five things to know about the high-end Buckeyes defensive back.

Ohio State defensive back connection

1) More than two decades apart, Okudah’s selection at No. 3 gives him a dynamic connection with another former Buckeye. His selection at No. 3 marks the highest a defensive back has been picked in the NFL draft since 1997 when Shawn Springs, another Ohio State product, went No. 3.

Okudah is the seventh Ohio State defensive back to be a first-round pick since 2014, joining Bradley Roby (2014), Eli Apple (2016), Marshon Lattimore (2017), Malik Hooker (2017) and Gareon Conley (2017) and Denzel Ward (2018).

[ Shop Jeffrey Okudah’s Detroit Lions jersey here ]

Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah warms up before the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7, 2019. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah warms up before the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7, 2019. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Comparisons to Stephon Gilmore

2) Why so high? One NFL scout told Yahoo Sports that the best player comp for Okudah is New England Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore. Okudah is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and finished last season with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and nine pass breakups.

“I think he’s an All-Pro,” the scout said. “He’s like a Stephon Gilmore, that kind of player. He’s a lock down press man corner with good length.”

‘We knew he was special’

3) Okudah’s rise to be the best defensive back in college football and an elite prospect doesn’t come as a surprise. He brought a ton of pedigree to Ohio State, as he was the top-rated safety in the high school class of 2017 and the No. 16 overall prospect in the country. Ohio State beat Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and USC for Okudah, who hails from Grand Prairie, Texas.

“He was the [best defensive back] in America,” former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told Yahoo Sports. “It wasn’t long after he stepped on campus that we knew he was special.”

Urban Meyer bullish on Okudah’s prospects

4) The Ohio State coaches who were exposed to Okudah are bullish on his NFL prospects. Meyer predicted in an interview with Yahoo Sports this week that, “He’ll be a 10-year veteran who is going to be one of the best in the league. It’s A-to-Z — intelligence, character and work ethic. He could be a doctor if he wanted to. He does everything right. He’s brilliant.”

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley, who served as Okudah’s defensive coordinator last season, said his blend of size and athleticism make him the perfect fit to cover big receivers in the modern NFL. “Combine footspeed, twitch, acceleration, speed, size and length, there aren’t a lot of people like that,” Hafley said in a phone interview this week. “He doesn’t move like a big guy. He moves like a small guy.”

Remembering his mother

5) Draft night is emotional for every prospect. For Okudah, the memory of his late mother, Marie, will certainly be present. Okudah wrote an emotional letter for The Players' Tribune when he declared for the draft, a searing tribute to the influence his mother had in his life. She died from lymphoma soon after he enrolled at Ohio State in 2017. It’s a powerful read, and we dare you not to cry. One of the tear-jerking conclusions: “Simply put, I was raised by the best.”

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