Possible Lions pick Jeff Okudah draws raves at NFL Combine: 'That guy is really good'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Even though it's something of a cliche question posed to prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, asking a player the toughest opponent they competed against at their position can provide interesting information. 

On Tuesday, there was one name on the tip of the tongue of many of offensive players, particularly the wide receivers. That name was Jeff Okudah, the All-American cornerback out of Ohio State. 

Opposing offensive players raved about former Ohio State defensive back Jeff Okudah on Tuesday at the NFL Combine.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke might have said it best when he noted Okudah is capable of succeeding regardless of his assignment. 

"Ohio State plays very simple defense, to be honest, Cover-1 and Cover-3," Lewerke said. "They don’t really blitz a lot. They just trust their front seven and DBs to make plays and obviously they did. Okudah is a great player. He can play man-to-man coverage on basically anyone in the nation. He can cover anyone on the field."

Okudah continues to be frequently tied to the Detroit Lions in mock drafts, both at No. 3 or in some alternative scenarios, where the team trades back a couple of spots. 

Tall, quick, outside, slot, it doesn't matter; receivers of all types raved about Okudah's ability. 

"He's big, (with) really good feet," Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones said. 

Penn State's KJ Hamler, one of the nation's quickest slot receivers, echoed Peoples-Jones' comments. 

"Toughest defensive back I faced, most definitely Jeff Okudah." said Hamler, the Pontiac native. "He’s a long guy, fast, very patient with his feet. He’s a technician guy, has good speed. Just studying him all that week, vs. Ohio State, you learned a lot of stuff about him."

Okudah's final college game came in the playoffs against Clemson, where he was pitted against Tee Higgins, another potential first-round pick. Asked about the matchup, Higgins facial expression said it all. 

"God, that guy is really good," Higgins said. "They say he’s a top-five guy and I can see why. He’s just a guy that’s real patient, real physical, is quick, got great hips. I’m excited to see where he lands."

Making two plans

The NFL and the player's union are continuing to work toward a new collective bargaining agreement this week, with the league's ownership looking to get something done in advance of the new league year, which starts next month. 

Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he doesn't anticipate a new CBA impacting the team's approach to the offseason, but it could impact how they structure some contracts. 

"We talk about it quite often, if there's a CBA, we can structure things differently," Quinn said. "In terms of our free-agency plans, and what we can spend and all that stuff, it really doesn't affect it that much. It's really how you structure the contracts. That's something where we have an idea if there's a CBA done, we can do certain things, and if there's not, we're going to play under these rules and we can do these things. We kind of have two scenarios we always look at and we put potential guys that we might go after in both buckets and kind of see how they shape out in terms of contracts." 

Coaching promotion

The Lions have yet to announce how the team will fill multiple coaching vacancies, with the linebacker, tight end and defensive back positions officially remaining open. The team also has yet to name a head strength and conditioning coach after parting ways with Harold Nash at the end of the season. 

Lions coach Matt Patricia said he anticipates an announcement soon, which will include a title for Tyrone McKenzie, who coached the inside linebackers in Tennessee last year. Patricia also noted Ben Johnson will "probably move into that tight end (coaching) role" in 2020. 

Johnson joined Detroit's staff in 2019 as a quality control coach. Prior to coming to Detroit, he worked in various roles for the Miami Dolphins from 2012-18, including a one-year stint coaching the team's tight ends. 

Johnson also coached the tight ends at the Senior Bowl for the Lions. 


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers