If this is your first time around here, this is SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Every week, we send surveys to our Detroit Lions fans and faithful, and analyze the reactions. If you want to be a part of our Reacts community in the future, sign up here.
It’s far too early to pass any sweeping judgments on the 2020 NFL Draft class. As if being a rookie in the NFL wasn’t difficult enough in a normal year, 2020 presented a bunch of unique challenges that made entering the league especially tricky for first-year players. No offseason workouts, invasive COVID protocols, and playing in stadiums with no fans were just a few of the unique challenges of 2020.
So Jeff Okudah’s struggles in his rookie season were at least a little understandable. Sure, there were other rookies going through the same issues who managed to play their butts off last year. Even other rookie cornerbacks like Trevon Diggs and A.J. Terrell managed to show some serious promise in their rookie season. Okudah, on the other hand, finished the season with just a single interception and two passes defended.
And while there are certain reasons to be optimistic about a 2021 turnaround for Okudah—a brand-new coaching staff with experience in developing young defensive backs, plus Okudah’s well-documented work ethic—Lions fans appear to be concerned about his future in a serious way.
In this week’s SB Nation Reacts poll, more than half of Lions fans said they no longer like the pick of Jeff Okudah with the team’s third overall pick last year.
In retrospect, it’s easy to say now that maybe the Lions should have considered drafting a quarterback. Of course, a year ago Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn were fighting for their jobs, and there were no indications Matthew Stafford would be asking for a trade a year later. Plus, the quarterback most fans were urging for last year was Tua Tagovailoa, who didn’t exactly have an inspiring rookie season, either.
At the time, the Okudah selection was actually very popular among Lions fans. Nearly 90 percent of fans gave the selection an A or B grade on the night of the draft. Now those numbers have shifted dramatically.
It’s hard to blame fans for their skepticism given how much Okudah struggled in his rookie season. However, given the unique challenges of last year combined with a steep learning curve at the cornerback position, this pessimism seems at least a little overblown. Let’s see how he does in his second and third year before we start playing the hindsight game.