Lions vs. Jaguars will showcase draft’s top cornerbacks in Jeff Okudah, C.J. Henderson

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

While they won’t share the field at the same time on Sunday, the matchup between the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars will offer an opportunity to compare and contrast the first two cornerbacks selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

The Lions snagged Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 overall pick, the earliest a corner had come off the board in more than two decades, while the Jaguars grabbed Henderson six picks later at No. 9. 

“I thought he was another outstanding corner,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said about Henderson. “He’s big, he’s long, he’s fast. Really, in college, looking back at it, there were some great things at the line of scrimmage. I thought his last year in college he worked a little bit of off-coverage, which was better. He can disrupt at the line of scrimmage. And one of the things that he does outstanding is he’s very violent through the pocket. When you watch him attack the pocket, or attack a receiver, his ability to come through, because of his length, and disrupt the catch is really outstanding. You’ve seen that transfer into the NFL. You’ve seen him do that probably three or four times where just that violent attack on a receiver, it’s pretty high level.”

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Through their first handful of games, both players have had their ups and downs, but Henderson has been a little bit more consistent while starting all four games for the Jaguars. He’s been targeted 23 times, giving up 15 receptions for 171 yards and two scores, while defending four passes, including an interception. 

Okudah, who started the season coming off the bench for the Lions after having his development slowed by a hamstring injury in training camp, has started one contest and similarly allowed 15 receptions on 20 targets. Those grabs have netted opposing receivers 225 yards, but zero scores. His only pass defense came against Arizona, when he undercut and intercepted a throw intended for All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. 

During the pre-draft process, the Lions never appeared to seriously consider Henderson ahead of Okudah, and Patricia offered little insight into how close the two defensive backs were on the team’s draft board. 

“Two really great corners,” Patricia said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that as far as the draft.”

Both players came out after their junior seasons. Henderson had double the interception production over his three years at Florida, while Okudah bested his counterpart, three picks to zero, in 2019 at Ohio State. At the combine, Henderson posted better results in the 40-yard dash and bench press, while Okudah showed better explosion in the vertical and broad jump.

Among draft analysts, both were well-regarded, but Okudah was overwhelmingly viewed as the better prospect. 

Henderson is currently dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday. He returned as a limited participant on Thursday. 

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