The New York Giants have invested heavily in their secondary over the last couple of years. But they still have questions to answer despite that investment. With the explosive growth of passing offenses at the NFL level, questions in coverage are risky.
At the moment it seems somewhat unlikely that Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah will slip out of the first three picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. If he does, the Giants might have to consider calling an audible on their draft plans and selecting him fourth overall. Okudah is widely regarded as the best corner in the draft.
Prospect: Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
Games watched: vs. Washington (2019 Rose Bowl), vs. Indiana (2019), vs. Michigan State (2019), vs. Clemson (2019 College Football Playoffs)
Red flags: None
Games played (starts): 35
Tackles for a loss: 1
Passes defensed: 18
Games played (starts): 13
Tackles for a loss: 1
Passes defensed: 9
Best: Size, length, explosiveness, fluidity, ball skills, tackling
Worst: Speed, generating turnovers
Projection: A starting “number one” corner with true scheme versatility.
Okudah has a good frame for the cornerback position, combining good height and length with good thickness in his upper and lower body. Okudah has quick feet to go with good ankle and hip flexibility.
Ohio State played Okudah in a variety of coverage schemes, using both man and zone coverage. Okudah shows good physicality in man coverage, with the ability to disrupt receivers early in their routes. His fluid lower body allows him to transition easily from a backpedal to running with receivers with little wasted motion or energy. Okudah can stay in phase with most receivers throughout their routes.
He is a capable zone defender as well. Okudah does a good job of getting to landmarks in his zone drops as well as showing good discipline in picking up and passing off receivers entering and leaving his zone. He also does a good job of keeping an eye in the backfield, reading the quarterback, and triggering downhill on underneath plays.
Okudah shows good patience and discipline in all areas of his game. His easy movement skills allow him to wait until a receiver commits before opening his hips. He trusts his fluidity and burst to not allow separation out of breaks. Okudah also shows good ball skills at the catch point. He is skilled in subtly disrupting receivers and making plays on the ball without being flagged for pass interference. He also has an explosive closing burst to make plays on the ball despite the receiver appearing open.
He is a capable tackler who is generally sound in bringing ball carriers to the ground, though he isn’t a hard hitter. Okudah is also a willing run defender who shows good technique in taking on blockers and doesn’t hesitate to make plays on running backs.
There is some question about Okudah’s long speed, particularly after his 4.48-second 40-yard dash. He might have issues running with particularly athletic receivers at the NFL level. Okudah will also have to pay close attention to his hand usage at the top of routes. He can occasionally be “grabby” as he makes plays on the ball and could be flagged for pass interference at the NFL level if he isn’t careful. And while Okudah does have good ball skills to disrupt at the catch point, he does not come down with many interceptions.
Overall Grade: 7.0 - Has the traits to emerge as a starter immediately as a rookie and should be one of the best players on his team early in his career. A top-five value. [Grading Scale]
Okudah projects as a starting cornerback immediately upon entering the NFL, with the versatility to play in any coverage scheme. Okudah should be a very good cornerback in the NFL for a long time.
He has true scheme versatility, with the ability to line up in man, off, or zone coverage and cover a team’s number one receiver. And while there might be some questions about his speed, he is an explosive athlete with a powerful lower body and impressive closing burst. That burst, combined with his fluidity and length, give him a large catch denial radius, as well as the ability to bait quarterbacks and making plays on the ball.
Okudah is a good-enough tackler for a college defensive back prospect, and while he doesn’t often lay heavy hits, he generally does a good job of picking angles and aim points that allow him to get the ball carrier to the ground. He is a willing run defender and shows good competitive toughness in dealing with blockers and attacking swing passes and wide receiver screens.
He will need to watch his tendency to grab receivers as he makes a play on the ball. He is generally subtle about it and does so in a way that isn’t apparent to the officials — Darrelle Revis was fantastic at this — but it still could get him called for pass interference while he adjusts to the NFL.
All told, Okudah is the best defensive back in this draft class and should be one of the first players drafted. He can help a defense immediately, even if he doesn’t get plaudits for generating turnovers.