Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah eager to show off his skills at NFL combine

Joey Kaufman
Cornerback Jeff Okudah (1) says he looks forward to seeing how his combine numbers compare to those of current NFL stars Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

INDIANAPOLIS Jeff Okudah grew up watching the NFL scouting combine.

He admired the players who shot out of their stance to begin the 40-yard dash or floated in the air in the vertical jump.

The highlights of their workouts still linger. It was Patrick Peterson in 2011 and Jalen Ramsey in 2016, both future All-Pro cornerbacks, who left the biggest impressions.

Okudah, a cornerback from Ohio State, aspired to put on a similar display of athleticism when he arrived for the combine this week. So while some top draft prospects, including former teammate Chase Young, opted not to go through on-field testing, Okudah had no hesitation.

“Coming to the combine has always been a dream,” he said. “Just being here is a dream come true. You go back and watch some of these combine videos, I watch Jalen Ramsey's combine video, I watched Patrick Peterson's combine video. I want somebody down the road to say, 'Let's turn on Jeff Okudah's combine video.’”

The resolve for a similar performance was strong enough that Okudah said he kept a whiteboard in his apartment that showed the combine numbers from Peterson and Ramsey, including their 40-yard dash times, broad jump numbers and bench press reps, among the rest of their testing.

“It's just about putting my numbers up with theirs,” he said.

Okudah added that he hoped to impress talent evaluators with his footwork during position drills, as he’s taller than most of the other cornerbacks. At nearly 6 feet 2, he didn’t want to appear anything other than smooth while backpedaling. That meant showing loose hips, too, he said.

According to the official measurements, Okudah had the longest wingspan of the defensive backs.

Okudah said he saw little downside to going through the workouts, even though he is considered a possible high-end selection, as high as third overall behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU, the presumed No. 1 overall pick, and Young.

“It's kind of like there's risk-reward for everything,” Okudah said. “For me, it's no different than going out against (former Clemson receiver) Tee Higgins all game. It's always going to be risk-reward. You chose if you're going to get the reward or if you're going to get the risk.”

If Okudah follows Burrow and Young in the draft, it means he would be selected by the Detroit Lions. There, he could be paired with Darius Slay, who was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl last season.

Okudah considered the possibility to be “magical.”

“I think it'd be really tough, too, for that (NFC North) division,” he added.

Over the past few years, Slay has given various pieces of advice to Okudah.

The New York Giants and Miami Dolphins round out the rest of the top-five of the draft.

Okudah was well-versed in his potential landing spots, especially Detroit. He noted that Lions coach Matt Patricia was a former defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and, as a result, preferred man-to-man coverage.

“I've been studying a lot of those top groups,” he said.

He’s long been prepared for the biggest stage of the pre-draft calendar.


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