The Detroit Lions selected Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Detroit went into the opening round desperately needing to help a defense that ranked No. 31 in the league last season.
The Lions were expected to take Okudah or linebacker Isaiah Simmons if they didn’t trade out of the high slot to acquire multiple picks. Both Okudah and Simmons have the type of talent to improve the team’s most glaring weakness.
Okudah, though, seems to fit perfectly.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Okudah can blanket receivers in man-to-man coverage and make tackles to stop the run. He is the highest-drafted cornerback since Shawn Springs was selected from the same school by Seattle in the 1997 draft.
The Lions were last in the NFL against in the pass last season and then traded three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia last month for draft picks. Signing cornerback Desmond Trufant, who turns 30 in September, after Atlanta released him last month appears to be a solid move even if it is only a short-term solution.
Okudah should be able to take care of one side of the field for years to come.
General manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia need their first-round pick to pan out this year and it may help their job security if some other selections also contribute right away as rookies. Owner Martha Firestone Ford brought back Quinn for a fifth year and Patricia for his third year, but made clear contending for the playoffs was the expectation.
Quinn and Patricia are counting on quarterback Matthew Stafford being healthy. He missed the second half of last season with a back injury, leading to a nine-game losing streak. The 32-year-old Stafford has three years left on his $135 million deal.
The franchise certainly has more needs on defense, but there are also voids on offense. Quinn let guard Graham Glasgow go in free agency, raising concerns about Stafford having enough time to throw to receivers such as Kenny Golladay.
Detroit went into the draft with three picks on Friday, including the No. 35 overall pick. The Lions have nine selections overall, including a pair of picks in the third and fifth rounds from the Slay trade. They have five late picks to potentially trade up to land a player they covet.