Salt In The Wound: Okudah's Counterparts Make Instant Impact In Week 1


The expectation when the Lions drafted Jeff Okudah was that he'd be a Week 1 starter -- possibly a Week 1 star. The team brought in Desmond Trufant as a safety net in the secondary, but the top corner spot was supposed to belong to Okudah.

This isn't revisionist history. Even in an abnormal offseason, the Lions felt Okudah's general polish and his background in press coverage would make for a smooth transition to Detroit. Indeed, his NFL readiness is one of the things they liked about him most.

Of course it was. Okudah was the third overall pick and the highest-drafted player at his position since 1997. So it was a pretty big letdown when he stumbled out of the gates and finished training camp as Detroit's No. 3 corner -- No. 4 if you count nickel Justin Coleman.

Injury or not, Okudah wasn't slated to start Sunday against the Bears. He would have played if not for his hamstring -- and perhaps Detroit's banged-up secondary will thrust him into a starting role next week against Green Bay -- but he wouldn't have played much. Maybe half the defensive snaps.

Okay, hold on. Let's check in on the other defensive players drafted in the top 10 this year. Let’s check in on a few more first-round cornerbacks, too. Rookie growing pains are expected, especially at that position. Maybe Okudah isn't alone. ... Nope, nevermind. We’re good.

Is it bad?

It's not great!

Second-overall pick and fellow Ohio State product Chase Young did as we all expected and dominated in his NFL debut. Sixth overall pick Derrick Brown started at DT for the Panthers and recorded three tackles and a TFL. Seventh overall pick Isaiah Simmons started at LB for the Cardinals and recorded three tackles.

Just wait.

After Okudah, three more corners went in the top 20. 19th overall pick Damon Arnette -- Okudah's counterpart at Ohio State -- started Sunday for the Raiders, played 72 percent of the defensive snaps and logged five tackles and one pass break-up. 16th overall pick Clemson's AJ Terrell played every defensive snap for the Falcons and logged six tackles.

And then there was Florida's C.J. Henderson, the only corner in the draft who some general managers preferred over Okudah. The Jaguars took him ninth overall. Henderson started Sunday, played 84 percent of the defensive snaps and flat-out won the season-opener for his new team.

Tasked with covering Colts’ No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton, Henderson picked off Philip Rivers in the first half and then sealed the game with his third pass break-up of the afternoon. You talk about NFL-ready.

The Bears even rolled out second-rounder Jaylon Johnson on Sunday against the Lions. When he wasn't getting steamrolled by Marvin Jones, the rookie played pretty darn well: six tackles, two passes defended and he never came off the field.

This wouldn’t sting the way it does had Bob Quinn and the Lions not been so bullish on Okudah coming out of the draft. It would sting a lot less had Matt Patricia's defense not just surrendered three more touchdowns to Mitch Trubisky in another fourth-quarter collapse. Maybe, had Okudah been available Sunday, he would have saved the Lions at the death. Then this wouldn't sting at all.

But it stings the most because that feels like wishful thinking. Okudah wasn't NFL-ready, based on what we've seen. That his counterparts thrived on Sunday is just salt in the wound.

Featured Image Photo Credit: © Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC