We didn’t see a cornerback come off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft until pick No. 30, when the New York Giants took DeAndre Baker. That won’t happen this year. Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah will be the first at his position selected in the 2020 NFL Draft and will likely not even escape the top five.
Coming out of high school, Okudah was a consensus five-star recruit, the number one cornerback and the eighth best overall player regardless of position, per 247Sports. Okudah logged only 124 coverage snaps in his true freshman campaign in 2017 at Ohio State, but once he got significant playing time in 2018, his talent was apparent. In his 27 games over the past two years, Okudah hasn’t allowed more than 50 yards in a single game. He’s the only Power-5 cornerback to play at least 10 coverage snaps in 15 or more games and accomplish that feat.
He has all the tools to make it at the next level. Elite speed, athleticism, size — you name it, he has it. Okudah has shown off all of these over the past couple of seasons and has locked down the outside. Opposing quarterbacks have tried to catch Okudah off guard, but more often than not, it’s Okudah who wins the battle. He’s seen 93 targets when lined up at outside corner since 2018 and has allowed a first down on just 20% of those targets — over 13 percentage points below the FBS average — to lead all corners who have played in both seasons. No cornerback is going to completely prevent an explosive play from happening when they are on the field, but there are a rare handful who allow them at an incredibly low rate, and Okudah is a part of that group.
On his 400 coverage snaps, just six resulted in a 15-plus yard gain for the opposing receiver. Those six plays accounted for nearly half of Okudah's yards allowed for the season, and he happened to be playing them all in off-coverage. When he went face-to-face with his opponent in press coverage, Okudah didn’t allow a single explosive play. He played 184 coverage snaps in press coverage and was targeted 29 times, with his longest reception allowed going for just 12 yards. That paved the way to surrendering just 3.1 yards per target in press coverage, which is over three and a half yards fewer than the FBS average.