INDIANAPOLIS — The guy knows his stuff.
Jeff Okudah can give a rundown of the cornerback condition of the teams up near the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. During a thoroughly impressive media session Friday morning at the NFL Combine, the best player at his position rattled off a depth chart recital of the Redskins (owners of the No. 2 pick), Lions (No. 3), Giants (No. 4) and Dolphins (No. 5).
Okudah knew the Redskins cut Josh Norman and “are going to negotiate a little’’ with Quinton Dunbar, who has requested a trade. Okudah knows the Lions “have Darius Slay they have to negotiate with’’ and that they “have a second-year corner, Amani [Oruwarlye] from Penn State who he is impressed with. Okudah knows “the Giants have DeAndre Baker and [Sam] Beal, they just got Baker last year.’’ Okudah is aware the Dolphins have “Xavier Howard, great, great cornerback.’’
Okudah is on it.
“So, I know a lot about the secondaries right now,’’ he said.
The Ohio State stud is going to hear his name called early in the draft, with most predictions linking him to the Lions at No. 3. That is no sure thing, though, as rumblings about trade-ups for quarterbacks have the Lions and Giants declaring they are open for business. Heck, the Redskins might take a quarterback, dropping a top player down the board. There is a decent-to-good chance Okudah will be there for the Giants, if they stay put at No. 4, and then they will have a decision to make: Do they take a highly-rated player to add another young cornerback to a group that needs veteran talent and experience now that Janoris Jenkins is gone?
The Giants traded up into the first round last year to get Baker, who struggled through serious NFL growing pains, in terms of production on the field and attention to detail off it, and gradually showed improvement later in his rookie season. Beal, in his first year of action, was up-and-down — more down than up. Corey Ballentine as a rookie showed he has much work to do. Ideally, the Giants sign a veteran (Logan Ryan comes to mind) to add into the mix. Okudah, though, could be the top-rated player on the board when the Giants make their choice and, as they say, you can never have enough corners.
Okudah could be worth it. He is a clean, proven prospect. NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah graded Okudah higher than every cornerback coming into the draft in recent years other than Marshon Lattimore.
Unlike top players Joe Burrow and Chase Young, Okudah will participate in every drill this week and plans to improve his stock even further Sunday when the defensive backs get their turn at Lucas Oil Stadium. In his apartment in Columbus, he has a white board with the combine numbers put up by Patrick Peterson in 2011 (4.34 in the 40, 38-inch vertical jump) and Jalen Ramsey in 2016 (4.41 in the 40, 41 1/2 vertical jump). He has watched countless combine videos and says it is a dream to be able to run and jump at this event.
“I want someone down the road to say ‘Let me try to compare to Jeff Okudah’s combine video,’’ he said.
At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Okudah has ideal size but is much more polished and mature than Eli Apple, another Ohio State cornerback the Giants took in 2016 with the 10th overall pick. There are no risks with Okudah, who can play outside, in the slot and is studied in press man coverage. He has a meeting Saturday scheduled with the Giants and they will not hold against him that he grew up a Cowboys fan in Grand Prairie, Texas.
He caused a bit of attention earlier in the week during weigh-ins when the medical report came back reporting he has a “right pinky deformation.’’ Okudah dislocated his right pinky in high school and told the facilitator to measure his left hand, a request that went unheeded. Okudah smiled and presented his right hand on Friday, posing for pictures.
“You all can say it’s deformed but I feel like it’s just got a little nub on it,’’ he said. “I love all my fingers the same.’’
Every team does not like everything about every player at the combine, but there is not much at all to dislike about Okudah, giving the Giants someone else to consider.