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Lions' Jeff Okudah ranks 5th among defensive rookie of the year contenders

The Detroit News

The Detroit Lions spent the No. 3 overall pick on cornerback Jeff Okudah in April's NFL Draft. It should come as no surprise if that comes with some lofty expectations.

The Ohio State product is among eight players draft analyst Lance Zierlein listed Thursday as his candidates for defensive rookie of the year for the 2020 season.

The Lions selected cornerback Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Zierlein, however, ranked Okudah fifth among the candidates, who are led by Washington's Chase Young, Okudah's teammate at Ohio State who was selected No. 2 overall.

"Given the difficulty of his position and his relatively low ball production in college (three INTs, 18 passes defensed in three seasons), perhaps I've ranked Okudah too high on this list," Zierlein writes. "Here's the thing, though: He's a terrific athlete with great length and the physical ability to twitch and explode on throws. He hasn't learned to fully trust his eyes, but if it starts to click for him in that area as a rookie and if he's allowed to play a little more off-man coverage, those explosive traits could pay early dividends."

Okudah likely will get the opportunity to prove his worth. The Lions traded top cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles in March, though they added cornerback Desmond Trufant in free agency.

The rookie appears eager to make the most of the opportunity. In a conference call last month with reporters, new Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Okudah was "driven like few men I’ve been around in this profession.

" ... The guy, he’s nonstop, to the point where it’s like, ‘Jeff, can we not talk about football for like five minutes? Do you do anything else? Like, what are we doing?’ That’s how he’s wired.”