Jeff Okudah’s season is over, and the No. 3 pick of last year’s draft has another major obstacle to overcome if he ever is going to live up to his lofty NFL draft status.
Okudah suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Detroit Lions’ season-opening 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, NFL Network reported.
Lions coach Dan Campbell said that diagnosis was a possibility after Okudah suffered an injury with just over 10 minutes left in Sunday’s fourth quarter, on a play that happened away from the ball.
Okudah limped off the field with help from trainers, and after briefly having the back of his ankle examined on the sideline, hobbled 50 or so yards to a medical cart waiting in the tunnel, which transported him to the locker room.
“They said that could be a possibility, but we don’t know for sure so I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with it,” Campbell said after the game.
Okudah, the highest cornerback drafted since Shawn Springs in 1997, had a disappointing rookie season in Detroit, when he allowed a 77.4% completion rate on balls thrown in his coverage area and finished the season on injured reserve after undergoing groin surgery.
He looked like a better, more confident player in training camp, but had a few rough moments in preseason games and got beat for a 79-yard touchdown Sunday.
Achilles tendon injuries have historically been one of the toughest injuries for players like cornerbacks who rely on explosion to overcome.
Sidney Jones was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the 2017 draft, but ruptured his Achilles in pre-draft training and slipped to the second round. He played one game as a rookie and already is on his third NFL team.
Mikel Leshoure, a second-round pick by the Lions in 2011, tore his Achilles in training camp as a rookie and was out of the league by 2013.
And a study published by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society in 2017 reported that of the 78 Achilles tendon ruptures suffered by pro football players in the 2010-2015 NFL seasons, 26% of the players never played football again and those who did suffered a 23% net decrease in their approximate on-field value.
With a nine- to 12-month timetable for full recovery for most Achilles injuries, Okudah likely will miss or be limited for next year’s offseason training program, and the Lions will have to consider replacements for him in free agency and/or the draft.
The Lions currently have the youngest cornerback corps in the NFL, with three rookies (A.J. Parker, Jerry Jacobs and Ifeatu Melifonwu) and converted safety Bobby Price, in his second NFL season, backing up starters Okudah and Amani Oruwariye.
Parker started at nickel cornerback against the 49ers, and Melifonwu replaced Okudah in the fourth quarter.
The Lions could elevate veteran Nickell Robey-Coleman from the practice squad to take Okudah’s place, or look outside the organization to add depth.