The Undervalued Defensive Aspect of the NFL Draft. What is it? It’s the lockdown cornerback. I know people on ESPN don’t agree, I hope if you’re reading this that you keep an open mind. Jeff Okudah is going to be drafted by the Detroit Lions, but should he be drafted sooner?
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Jeff Okudah to Lions?
When looking at this season’s incoming draft class, Jeff Okudah is expected to be drafted 3rd by the Lions in almost all 2020 NFL mock draft’s. His skillset is believed to be comparable at cornerback to Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Quite high praise for the Ohio State Buckeye.
Ma-ny fans, the media and the experts misuse and confuse lockdown corner with multiple Pro-Bowler in many cases. There are HOF corners that weren’t truly lockdown defenders.
Still their are others who firmly stand by the opinion that the only lockdown cornerback was Deion Sanders. I wouldn’t argue the fact but I disagree with that belief.
If you blanket great receivers with regularity you are a lockdown corner. Antonio Brown was giving NFL secondary’s anxiety, catching passes in bracketed coverage. Jalen Ramsey went man-to-man with A.B, without any extra help and gave him fits. Ramsey did this multiple times. That’s a Lockdown cornerback!
Okudah and Young
I’m not going to state that elite corners are more important than great pass rushers, I’ll just say they’re a rarer breed.
It usually takes the lockdown defensive backs until year two before you really see some of his brilliance. For those that aren’t of the lockdown caliber but still first or second round picks it can take 3-4 years before they live up to their NFL expectations.
Pure pass rushers with supreme physical tools like Joey Bosa or a player like Jevon Kearse they can get sacks and show out immediately.
In the last five years there have been many top 5 picks that specialize in getting to the passer, but in that same time time, there has only been one potential lockdown corner drafted in Jalen Ramsey.
I just think when they do come around like Okudah this year, the cornerback should at least be taken into consideration as being selected before the pass rusher.
Hopefully, Jeff Okudah will be selected by the Lions, and Detroit isn’t enticed to search elsewhere. Many NFL defenders get immediate recognition for making a big play. A great cornerback, if he is elite, you may not even hear his name mentioned during a game, if he is doing his job.
Learning curves: QB’s and DB’s
I liken it to Franchise running backs, the ones with the tools and vision, they can jump right into the NFL and be amongst the best rushers in the game.
On the other hand the future HOF Quarterback can have a good rookie season, just by showing promise moving forward.
After his rookie season, Peyton Manning was thought to be what he was projected to be when he was drafted #1 overall in 1998. Compared to his 2nd season Peyton’s rookie stats were really just pedestrian.
Many pass rushers just want to go from the line at scrimmage and get behind the people(offensive line) in front of them before a whistle blows.
The cornerback and quarterback can’t use just their physical abilities. It usually takes a couple years before their mental and physical talents merge together. The only way to get there is from trial, error, and experience against savvy pros in different predicaments.
Are you Saying Draft Okudah before Chase Young?
I think the subject should get some consideration from the NFL thinktank. There’s this idea that the pass rushers should rightfully be drafted ahead of the defensive backs. Okudah is getting drafted 3rd overall in the draft. This would tie for the highest a DB has ever been selected.
I can’t begin to understand the that’s just the way it is sediment that exists here. It’s seared into the consciousness of the decision makers, scouts, media and so-called experts.
I’m only talking about the superstar’s in the secondary who score off the charts and if they live up to their potential will be in Canton one day.
Do they think that the defensive ends are less likely to fail? History shows this is not accurate. Most of the high profile DB’s live up to their hype.
These elite prospects with blanket coverage skills without the need for bracketed help are extremely rare. There are top 3 overall prospects at Quarterback and players who rush the quarterback every April.
Derrick and Deion
In The 1989 NFL Draft, Derrick Thomas went 4th to Kansas City and Deion Sanders was selected immediately after him with the next pick. I’m using this example because they were two of the best to ever play at their positions
Should Thomas have gone ahead of Deion? I don’t think so. If you do I wouldn’t tell you that I think you are wrong.
Derrick Thomas was one of the best pass rushing linebackers ever. He wasn’t L.T but he was the next guy after Taylor that was something like LT.
In 1994, Deion Sanders went to San Francisco and helped lead the 49ers past their Super bowl roadblock.
In the 49ers way that was The-back-to-back Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. The next season Sanders left San Fran and joined Dallas as the Cowboys took their crown back from the Niners.
I don’t think if Derrick Thomas joined the same teams in those very same years that he would have had the same kind of impact as Deion did. I’m not saying either team wouldn’t have won with Thomas, I just don’t think it would have been as likely.
Cowboys and 49ers in The 1990’s
The 49ers and Cowboys were two of the best teams in NFL history. One of them was going to win the Super Bowl in the four year span from 1992-95.
No one in the NFC was going to beat either team and you can look in the record books regarding The AFC’s championship chances against San Francisco or Dallas.
If either team needed t0 improve at a position, that position was cornerback. They could both rush the passer and Thomas was better than any pass rusher either had but in the end getting to the QB wasn’t a weakness for either team.
I would have taken Sanders, if The Chiefs choice in 1989 was mine to make. I would take Jeff Okudah with the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
This isn’t a knock on Chase Young even a little bit. Young has a chance to be a great player, but my mindset would be take the elite coverage cornerback, because another great pass rusher will be likely available before another great cornerback. Jeff Okudah will go to the Lions, and they should be thankful for the next decade to come.
The Elite Safety
Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Earl Thomas, and Eric Berry were safeties in a league of their own. Berry almost single handedly shutdown Tim Tebow and the defending champion Florida Gators in 2010.
The Tennessee bluechip was the top recruit in the nation, coming out of high school. Berry had a a stellar college career on a mediocre team. He had the top overall draft grade in the country according to ESPN experts.
Despite being graded as the top player leaving high school and then garnering the same praise exiting college, Eric Berry didn’t get drafted until 5th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eric Berry only played five full seasons after injuries derailed him and his career. Eric was strickened with cancer and the battle of his life, was for his life.
He came back to play after that and win NFL Comeback Player-of-the-year. In the five seasons he played, Berry went to five Pro Bowls and was selected to The NFL All-Pro squad 3 out of those 5 years.
When Troy Polamalu arrived at Southern California. the school hadn’t shown it’s winning culture in 25 years. When he left USC, the programs players were primed and ready for a championship run. This wasn’t a coincidence.
He set the culture of winning along with USC head coach Pete Carroll. The Trojans for a three year period ran with it. Winning two National Championships and losing a third in one of the top 3 games in College Football history.
Some people reading this may think I’m giving Polamalu too much credit.
I give him the credit because he was the best player when USC got good again. The biggest reason I give him credit for the culture is that this wouldn’t be the last time Troy Polamalu would arrive to play somewhere and then change the culture until everyone had rings.
Despite his dominating collegiate career Troy didn’t go off the draft board until the Pittsburg Steelers selected him 16th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Prior to Polamalu, The Pittsburgh Steelers were a playoff caliber team capable of winning a postseason game, possibly even two.
After Pittsburgh drafted Troy Polamalu, the Steelers went to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. He was the biggest problem for the opposing offense every week because he was a threat in every aspect on the field.
The Steelers Safety hit, covered, blitzed, stripped and just caused havoc in all three levels of the defense. He did it with a fire that you could feel even watching him on Television.
When Polamalu retired, Pittsburgh remained a playoff caliber team, that was capable of winning a postseason game or maybe even two.
I don’t watch the draft as much as I check in at halftime and during commercials of NBA playoff games. Just tell me what happened and I’m good. All the experts ramblings are pointless. Almost as pointless as giving teams grades on the draft right after the draft.
2018 NFL Draft
In 2018 I watched the 1st Round with a friend. This friend of mine watches every minute of the draft and is very seriously compelled to DVR, NFL Network shows, daily before he goes to work. I’m talking bout free-agency, the Combine until post Draft talk is over.
I didn’t mind him watching because I had other stuff to focus on. What happened is by the 8th pick I became animated and yelling at the T.V.
I don’t think The NFL general managers heard me calling them fools or idiots. At the time it made me feel better so what are you going to do.
Still on the board
Why was Derwin James still on the board? As more selections got made I was just dumbfounded. Confusion set in next. My Draft guru-of-a-buddy, said “he knew what my problem was”. It turned out my problem was Derwin James wasn’t as good as I thought he was and my feelings were simply based on that he played for my team in Tallahassee.
I was standing in front of the television as The Saints were drafting Marcus Davenport. I just stared at him for close to 30 seconds as he tried to act superior in his Gainesville Gators t-shirt. We live in Jersey BTW.
Anxiety had me wanting to stick a spear through The Florida Gators logo on his chest. I took a breath and proceeded to explain that Derwin James was going to be the best safety in football within three years. I didn’t know what these idiots in charge of picking personnel were doing but whatever it was they would regret it.
Then I explained how Derwin James can cover, blitz, and stop the run. He can lineup outside or in the slot with any elite tight end. He stands at 6’3 with 4.4 speed and can line up as a linebacker, if necessary. There were times at Florida State where he lined up as a defensive end. What really makes him special is his football I.Q and leadership skills.
The Best Deep Safety EVER
Tom Brady said himself that Ed Reed had the range in the middle-of-the-field, as a deep safety, that Tom didn’t think was possible. After witnessing what Reed could do on the field, Brady wore a wristband whenever he faced Ed Reed. It read find 20 (Reed) on every play.
This wasn’t a joke. Ed Reed could get from point A to point B faster than an elite QB like Brady was prepared for, or thought previously had been possible.
Earl Thomas is the closest thing to Reed in this aspect because he causes the same level of concern from the quarterback. It only takes a simple mental lapse to allow a quarterback to let muscle memory takeover. Part of this is if I throw the ball here with the Free Safety over there, he can’t make a play on it.
Ed Reed and Earl Thomas could and did. They make you go no way is he involved in the play, if I do this I do that. Then one or two times focusing on another aspect of the game, The QB throws the ball and he’s cursing at himself before it releases from his fingertips because he forgot it’s not a normal free safety out there, it’s Ed Reed.
This is why Tom Brady wore a wristband telling himself, Find Ed Reed on every Play.
In the heat of the battle, in the huddle, Tom Brady didn’t want to lose focus that Reed’s out there and wants to make you pay for any mistake you make.
In an era of pass, pass, and then lets try to pass. That’s most teams philosophies nowadays on 1st and goal. My thing, its to not automatically pass DB’s over because that is what is done only because that is what they decided to do. What they are used to now.
Jeff Okudah will be drafted by the Detroit Lions is the first elite cornerback prospect since Jalen Ramsey.
The guys I mentioned did that. They changed the fortunes of their franchises. The all-time DB is much rarer when compared to the defensive end or the outside linebacker. Only the left tackle is as rare.
If you drafted the lockdown corner, within two years there will be more pass rushers that you can draft. Most likely the very next draft will be filled with them. Jeff Okudah should end up with the Lions but should Washington even consider him?
The lockdown cornerback if you pass on him (no pun intended) another one won’t likely exist to draft. When you want one it won’t likely be an option.