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Combine Profile: CB Jeff Okudah raises the bar


If you come at the DB1, you best not miss.

During Friday's media day with defensive backs, a reporter told Ohio State's Jeff Okudah that he has a tendency to get kind of sloppy. "Sloppy in what way?" the 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback responded calmly, yet still ready to pounce.

"Penalties and stuff like that," the questioner managed to spit out.

The trap was set.

"I had zero pass interferences, zero holdings, so cut the tape on the game," Okudah said. "I think you might see something else."

It's true. Okudah went his entire final season without committing a penalty between the whistles, according to The Plain Dealer. The only flag he drew was for a late hit early in the rivalry game against Michigan. That is just the tip of the iceberg as to what makes Okudah one of the cleanest prospects in the 2020 class. He is the consensus top defensive back in the draft and NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah ranked him No. 4 overall, the same spot the Giants currently sit in the draft order.

Big Blue drafted three cornerbacks last year – DeAndre Baker (first round), Julian Love (fourth) and Corey Ballentine (sixth) – and all of them started while playing at least 300 snaps. In addition, Sam Beal, a 2018 supplemental draft choice who was injured for his entire rookie season, started three games down the stretch.

Nonetheless, Okudah could be too good to pass up.

"Okudah has ideal size, length, twitch and competitiveness for the position," Jeremiah said in his scouting report. "He is very comfortable and effective in both press and off coverage. He is patient in press and very fluid/smooth when he opens up. He does a nice job of staying on top versus vertical routes and he can locate the football down the field. He has the agility to mirror underneath. In off coverage, he explodes out of his plant and he is a dependable open field tackler. This is a very clean player with a very high floor and ceiling."

In other words, he is the player you would create in Madden. Speaking of, Okudah credits the video game as the genesis of his football life. He started playing it in third grade, the one with Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander on the cover.

"So I'm playing Madden every single day and the computer is just kicking me in," Okudah said on NFL Network. "Eventually I'm like, 'I want to play, I want to play in real life. This video game stuff's not cutting it anymore.' So then I just kind of fell in love."

Okudah is the most recent defensive back to come off the Ohio State assembly line. The Buckeyes' defensive backfield has produced five first-round draft choices in the past five years, three more than LSU, which claims to be DBU.

"See, we don't challenge that," Okudah said. "We don't even concern ourselves with that anymore. DBU? They can have DBU. We call it BIA – Best in America."

Among the BIA is Marshon Lattimore, who was named the 2017 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Denzel Ward, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

"I think it's just about trying to be better than the defensive back that came before you because the bar is always set so high at Ohio State as to what's the expectation for a great corner," Okudah said. "For me, it's about Denzel setting the bar high, really high, and I want to take that bar and I want to move it up a little bit higher for the next guy. And then the next guy moves it up higher for the next guy and it goes from there."

So what would the Giants get from Okudah?

"You're going to get a straight technician," he said. "I mean if you really love football, watch the tape. You'll see someone that really is in love with being a better player. Technique is something I really pride myself on. I know that when athleticism fades away, technique will always be there. So that's just something I always prided myself on and something that I care deeply about."

Ex-Buckeyes aren't the only players Okudah studies. He pointed to All-Pros Patrick Peterson and Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

"Those are guys you can tell that are really profound in their craft, guys that study the receivers," Okudah said. "They do their homework, and you see them, they reap the rewards of that on Sundays."

When he isn't studying receivers, he is whispering in their ear.

"I'm kind of weird because I'm really kind of silent, but when I'm whispering, I'm getting in your head at the same time," said Okudah, a native of Grand Prairie, Texas. "I'm always telling receivers like, 'Hey man, I'm sticky. It's going to be a long day. It's going to be a looong day.' I think they feel that eventually."

View photos from the college career of Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah.


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