One player who has been in the general discussion regarding the Panthers’ options with the 7th overall pick in the 2020 draft is the Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, widely regarded as the best cover corner in the draft. While there is still a lot of time between now and the draft for things to change and players to either rise or fall dramatically, it is probably fair that if Okudah is still on the board when the Panthers pick – be that at 7 or not – he is going to be part of the conversation. With that in mind, what exactly does Okudah offer a prospective team, and how good exactly is he?
The Main Features
While Okudah did have three interceptions in his college career – all in 2019 – it is hard to say that he stands out as a ballhawk on tape. This is partly because teams really didn’t throw the ball his way a huge amount and partly because a lot of what he was asked to do in Ohio State’s defense was to take away the top receiver on opposing offenses. While teams will likely hope that he is able to offer greater ball production as a pro, they will be more than encouraged by what he does show on tape.
He has the speed to run with all but the very fastest receivers:
And contests really well at the catch point:
More than anything else, though, what he does so well is follow receivers through routes in man coverage:
For teams that run a lot of man coverage – and even those that don’t – he offers the ability to go man-to-man on the outside against the better receivers in the NFL without the need for help. While it would be unfair to compare Okudah to the likes of Darrelle Revis, in terms of what this skillset can offer at the highest level, Revis is a great example of how beneficial it can be for a defense to be able to take away the offense’s best receivers week after week.
While Okudah is helped in this by his footwork, where he minimizes unnecessary lateral movement and keeps his weight evenly distributed and beneath his frame to allow him to change direction without losing balance, at the end of the day, a lot of this just comes back to athleticism with good quickness and agility. This all allows him to make plays like the following:
The obvious appeal on tape with Okudah is his ability to match up against receivers in press man coverage and to take them out of the game. However, while there are some defenses in the NFL where he could get away with doing that on every play, for a lot of teams, he will need to show value outside of this particular usage at least some of the time in order to maximize his value.
So then, what does Jeff Okudah offer outside of the man coverage upside?
Up Next: More Than Just Press Coverage