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Jeff Okudah over Derrick Brown? Analyst believes Lions building defense like Patriots

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

When it comes to draft analysts, the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah arguably has the strongest credentials in the field. A former college quarterback, he worked as a scout for three NFL teams before moving to the media side. 

As an analyst, Jeremiah takes part in the staples of the industry -- big boards and mock drafts. He's released his first version of both this offseason, and there's some incongruence relating to what the Detroit Lions could do with the No. 3 pick. 

Jeff Okudah

Jeremiah, like so many others, is projecting the Lions will take Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. But on his big board, a ranking of the top-50 prospects in the class, Jeremiah has Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (No. 2) and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons (No. 4) ahead of Okudah (No. 5). 

With obvious needs at both cornerback and defensive tackle, why did Jeremiah give the Lions Okudah over Brown? It boiled down to coach Matt Patricia's Patriots roots. 

"I thought Jeffrey Okudah, the chance for him to come in and play coverage, work your defense back to front, fit more of the philosophy, if you're going to go by the Patriots and how they've done things and make the connection with Patricia," Jeremiah said during a conference call on Friday. "They've kind of flipped the script. I personally would go front to back and take the defensive lineman, but I look at the success, defensively, the Patriots have had lately. They've done it with more premier players in the secondary than at the line of scrimmage. That's why I had Detroit looking in that direction."

From the past few years, Jeremiah noted the only cornerback prospect he's graded higher than Okudah was Marshon Lattimore, who has made the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

Jeremiah also said he sees a lot of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore in Okudah's game. Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in 2012, was named the league's defensive player of the year in 2019 after intercepting six passes and defending 20. 

"Look, (Okudah) is somebody you're going to let him just press and just mug people at the line of scrimmage," Jeremiah said. "He's so long and twitchy and fluid. He can find the ball. Everything I've heard about him, from a character standpoint, is off the charts. Some of the stuff you hear about him, and the workouts, like jumping 40 inches, going to less than 4 percent body fat, it's just crazy stuff."

Not surprisingly, Jeremiah had equally glowing things to say about Brown, who could help replenish Detroit's severely depleted defensive interior following news the team plans to part with Damon Harrison.

Derrick Brown

"I have the same grade on Derrick Brown at his position as I do on Chase Young at his position," Jeremiah said, referencing the Ohio State defensive end who is the consensus best prospect in the class. "He's the closest thing, ironically, to Ndamukong Suh, who everybody in Detroit knows quite well.

"That's who (Brown) reminds me of when you watch him on college tape — just so strong and powerful," Jeremiah continued. "He can really punch off blocks, separate, find the ball, make plays. He plays really hard. He's outstanding and I think if you plug him in there, you talk about immediate impact, oh, he'll make an immediate impact on every single down as an interior player."

The other frequently discussed option for the Lions in the first round is trading back. If the team does go that route, Jeremiah warned against dropping too far down the board because of the risk of missing out on a top defender. 

In addition to Okudah, Brown and Simmons, Jeremiah included South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw in that group of elite defenders. 

"That would be the group where I'd say, 'OK, if you're picking at three, I don't know if I want to go much further than six, at the furthest, seven,'" Jeremiah said. "If you get in that range, I think you come away with one of those guys.

"If you trade down and come away with Derrick Brown or Okudah, that's huge."