Back at the NFL Combine, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah said the toughest receiver he faced in college was Wisconsin’s Quintez Cephus.
Now the two will be teammates after the Lions selected Cephus in the fifth round of the NFL Draft with the No. 166 overall pick on Saturday.
“I think he's the best receiver I went against,” Okudah, Detroit’s first-round pick, said at the combine. “It doesn't matter what his 40 time was. Football is played in between the lines and he's a technician, someone that I changed my plan up for every single week. I think it might have been the only receiver to have 100-yards against us. I know that going against him, we have to earn our keep.”
Cephus had 59 receptions for 901 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019, setting career highs and leading the Badgers in each category. One of his best performances came against Okudah and the Buckeyes, when Cephus reeled in a career-high seven catches for 122 yards in the Big Ten championship game.
Cephus was equally complimentary of Okudah and is already looking forward to going up against him again in practice.
“Jeff is an unbelievable talent. He was the best guy I lined up against all year,” Cephus said on a conference call with reporters Saturday. “It’s amazing getting to see all the great players the Lions have this year (that) they drafted, that they have on their roster. Jeff Okudah, I’ll know he’ll get me better.
"I just can’t wait to get to work with him and have fun, knowing that he has that same respect as I have for him. It’s going to be a great thing.”
Cephus (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) finished his three-year career with 93 catches, 1,496 yards and 13 touchdowns. He only had six drops in 135 career targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
He ran the 40-yard dash in a troubling 4.73 seconds at the combine but rebounded with a 4.56-second time at Wisconsin's pro day. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said Cephus' pro day time was more indicative of how he played on film.
Even though Cephus isn't a burner, he still gives Detroit another downfield threat due to his body control, strong hands, catch radius and ability to make tough receptions.
“I’m a receiver that makes plays,” Cephus said. “I’m a complete receiver. I’m willing to block, I’m willing to make catches. I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to help my team be successful. So, whatever that is, I’ll do what I have to do.”
The Lions are returning all three starting receivers — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola — and added Geronimo Allison in free agency. However, Detroit doesn’t have a single receiver under contract beyond 2020.
Cephus faced a lengthy legal situation at Wisconsin. He was charged with sexually assaulting two women at his apartment in April 2018, which led to him being expelled from the university and suspended from the football team. In August 2019, Cephus was acquitted on two counts of sexual assault by a jury. He was eventually reinstated by the school and rejoined the team last season.
Quinn said the team investigated the off-the-field issue and Cephus' background like it does with every player during the pre-draft process.
"We did our normal research, no problems there," Quinn said. "We looked into that legal matter, did our research and felt good with it."
Cephus declined to comment when asked about the accusations.
"Right now I want to focus on this moment — the excitement around me being drafted and accomplishing a dream that I always had since I was a kid," he said.
"It was a wait, but it was worth the wait."
Cephus was the first of Detroit’s two fifth-round picks. The Lions acquired an additional selection — the No. 172 pick that they used on New Mexico State running back Jason Huntley — in their trade with the Las Vegas Raiders when they moved back 12 spots in the fourth round.
Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
Hometown: Macon, Ga. (Stratford Academy)
Age: 22 (April 1, 1998)
Notable: Last season: 59 receptions, 901 yards, seven touchdowns ... All-Big Ten honorable mention ... Caught career-high seven passes for 122 yards against Ohio State in Big Ten Championship on Dec. 7.