Following a disappointing debut for Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah, local sports talk radio host Mike Valenti opened up his afternoon program on 97.1-FM with an anonymous report that there was draft-day division regarding the team’s selection of Okudah in April.
Referencing two unnamed sources, Valenti said there was a disagreement on what to do with the No. 3 pick, with general manager Bob Quinn, coach Matt Patricia and the team’s personnel department all having different visions for the selection.
“From what I was told, no one on player personnel wanted them to take him at three,” Valenti said. “Nobody wanted Okudah at three. Your head coach didn’t want Okudah at three. Bob Quinn decided I’m the smartest guy in the room, I don’t really care what anybody has to say, I’m taking Okudah at three.”
Valenti said Patricia wanted Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, while the team’s personnel staff were split between Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
“I got that from two different people,” Valenti said. “And if the Lions are upset with it, too bad. Then tell people in your building to stop saying it.”
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The idea that Quinn and Patricia were on a different page heading into the draft runs contrary to the unified front the tandem has always publicly presented. Starting at Patricia’s introductory press conference in 2018, Quinn said, “Matt and I are going to be tied at the hip when it comes to player acquisition. Those decisions are never going to be one-sided.”
When asked about Valenti’s report Monday afternoon, Patricia emphatically denied its validity.
“Yeah, we usually don’t talk about any of that stuff,” Patricia said. “We like to keep that stuff internal, but since that’s so blatantly not even close to true, I would like to just make sure (it’s known) that is not a true statement, at all.”
If there ever was conflict in the decision, much of it was likely cleared up well before the draft. Tagovailoa, who was coming off a serious hip injury, was never seriously in play for Detroit given the win-now mandate placed on the coach and GM by ownership.
As for Simmons, the highly athletic and versatile linebacker made little sense after the team signed Jamie Collins, a similar style player with extensive experience in the defensive scheme, to a multi-year deal in free agency.
As for Brown, he would probably be a helpful piece up front for the Lions, who are having issues stopping the run as much as the pass, but like Okudah (and Simmons), he has struggled mightily in his first couple NFL games.