With the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Jeff Okudah. He is a perfect scheme-fit in Matt Patricia’s Belichickian-defense. He’s a physical press-man corner with the speed and the intelligence to make an instant impact. After trading away Darius Slay, Okudah was the obvious choice. But what does that mean for the rest of the Lions’ roster?
Immediately, Okudah should be stepping into either the cornerback 1 or 2 role. With the signing of Desmond Trufant in free agency, there’s no rush for him to be “the guy” right out of the gate. It is well-documented that rookie corners tend to struggle in the first year. However, the Detroit Lions join the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars as the only teams in the last five years to select a corner in the top-five of the NFL draft. Both Jalen Ramsey and Okudah’s former teammate Denzel Ward made an immediate impact as rookies. It is anticipated that Okudah joins those two as an immediate impact for the Lions. Okudah has the potential to become a top-five corner in the NFL by the end of his first year.
Justin Coleman‘s role shouldn’t really change, as last year he was the starting nickel cornerback last season. The only difference is that he likely will not play as many snaps on the outside as he did last year, maximizing his play-making potential.
After the starting tandem of Okudah and Trufant (and starting Nickelback Justin Coleman) there is a few guys who should push for more playing time. Amani Oruwariye was a fifth-round selection in the 2019 draft by the Detroit Lions. AO made a few spots starts last season in lieu of some unfortunate injuries. In those games, he happened to come away with a team-leading 2 interceptions. Oruwariye has some competition for the third spot on the depth chart. The Lions brought in Darryl Roberts in free agency to compete with and push Oruwariye for that spot. Darryl Roberts has some starting experience, most recently with the Jets. However, Oruwariye is expected to beat out Roberts.
If Darryl Roberts doesn’t win out the third corner spot on the depth chart, he might be fighting for a roster spot. Behind Roberts are a couple of special teams aces who the Lions like, Mike Ford and Dee Virgin. Ford’s and Virgin’s special teams versatility will be more valuable than Roberts’ impact. Roberts needs to find a way to contribute on the field for the Lions to retain him. So, with the Lions selecting Okudah in the first round, it’s likely that Roberts finds himself as the odd-man-out.
Overall, this should be an improved position group in 2020. While losing Slay is difficult to replace, Okudah has the potential to be a better player than Slay was. Drafting Okudah means the Lions will have a better starting tandem of corners than they ever had with Slay as the number one guy. Having Oruwariye with a year of experience as the first corner off the bench should mean the Lions are in a great spot at the position.
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