2020 NFL Draft: Is cornerback Jeffrey Okudah worth a top-5 pick?

NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft’s top cornerback, Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, has the tools necessary to break recent trends and become the highest-drafted CB this century.

Despite the increasing importance of the cornerback position in today’s pass-happy NFL, the best college corners are rarely mentioned as potential top selections during the months leading up to the draft each year.

However, Ohio State’s lockdown cornerback Jeffrey Okudah is slated to break that trend as the 2020 NFL Draft season begins to hit full swing.

Last season, the 6-foot-1 Buckeye held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 45.3 when targeted, per Pro Football Focus. Okudah’s combination of athleticism, attitude and production at the college level catapulted the playmaker from the first-round conversation straight to the top as soon as he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft earlier this month:

An obvious reason NFL general managers are weary of spending valuable draft capital on a cornerback is the league’s recent track record at the position.

In 2018, the Cleveland Browns drafted fellow Buckeye Denzel Ward with the fourth-overall pick. Although Ward has shown promise during his first two seasons in the NFL, Cleveland passed on both Denver Broncos stud defensive end Bradley Chubb and Indianapolis Colts All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson for the opportunity.

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Of the last four cornerbacks selected in the top-10 picks of prior drafts, only Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey arguably proved his worth, although he forced his way out of Florida before the end of his rookie contract.

The remaining three cornerbacks were kicked out of town by the teams that drafted them.

Eli Apple‘s tenure with the New York Giants was short, as was the Browns’ time with Justin Gilbert, who exited the league after his trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers and subsequent suspension by the NFLDee Milliner spent just three injury-riddled seasons on the New York Jets’ roster before his career came to an abrupt end.

However, Okudah appears to be cut from a different cloth. A “mature, hardworking, humble” version of Ramsey is the type of player who deserves to be in the discusssion for an early first-round pick.

Okudah won’t be one of the first two names called in the 2020 NFL Draft, but could he be the third? Earlier this week, Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay made it clear he wouldn’t mind playing alongside the Ohio State prospect next season.

Next: 2020 NFL Mock Draft

The last year a cornerback was drafted third overall was in 1997, when the Seattle Seahawks selected Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs. Detroit currently owns the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, where former Buckeye Jeffrey Okudah and the Lions’ lackluster secondary could become a perfect match.

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