Assessing Redskins first-round options: Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah
By Ian Cummings
Scouting Jeffrey Okudah
Most of the notes from Okudah’s film are going to fall under the coverage label, so as you’ll notice, the vast majority of his scouting notes focus on his coverage skills. There were some reps available that shed light on Okudah’s ability to defend the run, and thus, his run defense was included as well.
Most cornerbacks are relied upon more to cover passes than to defend the run, so his coverage notes ultimately carry more weight. But in an NFL where downfield blockers are being used more often to create space for runners, having cornerbacks who can impose themselves is not a bad thing. Is Okudah that type, and does it matter? Have a look!
Coverage – Strengths and Weaknesses
- Has the hip fluidity to mirror receivers in stride
- Does a good job watching the quarterback’s eyes and diverting course if the play changes
- Hands are very active at the catch point, times attacks at the ball well
- Hands stay active through the catch process
- Has the in-air flexibility to shift his focus from the receiver to the ball
- Hits a second gear once the ball is in the air, has insane closing speed to make a play
- Length is well above-average; uses it often to disrupt passes
- Plays with great effort and moxie; dives for balls just outside his reach
- Gifts almost no separation in man coverage with explosive short-range athleticism
- Sometimes tries to bait quarterbacks by leaving just enough room between the receiver
- Has the awareness to split two-on-ones well, doesn’t get confused
- Innate timing on contested catches down the field
- Has the long speed to put a cap on streak routes against most receivers
- Teams deliberately chose to look away from Okudah in certain games
- Has a jarring initial strike in press coverage, sets advantage early
- Can flip his hips with unfair ease and smoothness to manipulate leverage
- Quarterbacks visibly hesitate to test him in man coverage
- Gets in receivers’ faces
- Feet can be a little lazy off the snap when he’s playing farther off the line
- Lacking frame can cause him to second guess tackling angles
- Can get lost once the quarterback enters the scramble drill
- Active hands can get him into penalty trouble, especially in a WR-favored league
- Can allow space on in-breaking routes
- Zone coverage spacing brings trouble at times, allowing receivers room
- Sometimes trusts his traits too much
- Physical receivers can out-muscle him at the catch point
- Can be more disruptive consistently in press; often uses his movement skills alone
- Mental acuity is solid, but eyes can be pointed in the wrong direction at times
As a coverage cornerback, particularly in man coverage, Okudah has outstanding upside, and in 2019, he took a big step in the right direction, completing his game where it was previously lacking.
Okudah’s dynamism as a mover is perhaps the biggest staple of his game. He’s an incredible athlete, with explosive short-range acceleration, very good long speed, and the hip fluidity and flexibility to change direction in the blink of an eye. He hits a second gear once the ball is in the air, and almost always seems to be in position to make a play.
Okudah’s mobility and athleticism gives him tremendous potential as a man coverage cornerback, as he has immaculate mirroring ability. This allows him to go stride for stride with some of the best receivers, and at the catch point, he has very active hands, dangerous in-air flexibility, and the length to turn the odds.
There are areas where Okudah can grow. While smart and a fast processor, he can improve his mental process at the position, and he can also supplement the trust of his traits with better positioning before the snap, especially in zone coverage. He can also take advantage of more press snaps by being more active at the line of scrimmage; he’s shown himself to have the physicality to jar receivers, but he doesn’t indulge in that trait as often as he should.
All this said, Okudah’s explosive athletic framework provides a sky-high ceiling for the Buckeyes product, and in 2019, he improved considerably on his final 2018 tape. Okudah is a bit slight, in terms of frame, but he has the length and movement ability to more than compensate, and in a coverage-oriented league, he can be one of the better cornerbacks to play the game.
Run Defense – Strengths and Weaknesses
- Has the physicality to drive back blocks on screen plays
- Not afraid to dive into the pile and push the runner back
- Gives all his effort when going after tackles
- Showed much-improved physicality and frame solidity in 2019
- Has the agility to sidestep blocks on outside runs
- Aware of what it takes against bigger blockers to disengage
- Can be passive if the runner goes to the opposite side of the field
- Blockers with wider frames can neutralize Okudah and create lanes in his wake
- Lighter frame naturally generates some inconsistency as a tackler
- Can get re-routed easily if a bigger blocker hits him head on
- Doesn’t have the upper body strength to wrestle runners to the ground on his own
Run Defense Summary
Okudah’s bread and butter is coverage, so it comes as no surprise that run defense isn’t as strong of a department for him. Make no mistake; Okudah isn’t a liability in run defense. He has the physicality to drive back blocks on screen plays, and he has the agility to sidestep blocks on outside runs, and the awareness to disengage blocks at the right time.
That said, blockers with wider frames, which number many, given Okudah’s thin frame, can neutralize Okudah with relative ease and pave open lanes on his side of the field. The Buckeyes cornerback can be re-routed easily by head-on collisions with bigger blockers, and he doesn’t have the upper body strength to consistently disengage and complete tackles on his own.
Okudah has the general mentality and effort to provide enough utility in run defense, but he’s not a playmaker in this area. As one could expect from many other cornerbacks, Okudah’s run defense is a secondary part of his game, and it profiles that way.
Jeffrey Okudah Overview
I have yet to watch other cornerbacks in this class, but it’s a good bet that Jeffrey Okudah will wind up being CB1. His frame presents some minor issues, and like all prospects, he has some raw areas of his game. But Okudah’s athletic foundation is superb, and it allows him lockdown potential at one of the most important defensive positions in the game. With his experience in man coverage and upside in zone coverage, Okudah is a versatile prospect who’d be able to take on a starting role right away in the NFL, and potentially flourish as one of the more physically-gifted cornerbacks in the game.