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Far-Fetched Friday: Jeff Okudah Wins 2022/23 Comeback Player of the Year
Considering Jeff Okudah was the third overall draft pick in 2020, his first two seasons in the NFL were quite poor to say the least. In fact, many people were already quick to throw around the word "bust" when mentioning his name. Towards the end of his rookie season, Okudah ranked dead last in yards allowed per route, and according to Pro Football Focus, he ranked around 116th out 122 eligible cornerbacks. His second season practically ended before it started when Okudah tore his Achilles in the first game of the season versus the 49ers, which is one of the hardest injuries to come back from in all of sports.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at Detroit sports.
Okudah has been through the trenches in his first couple of NFL seasons, thus making him a fantastic candidate for the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. The NFL is a league that requires a lot from an athlete. And the Comeback Player of the Year rewards a player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity after missing the previous season through injury. Last year's winner was Joe Burrow, who suffered an injury his rookie year only to return and lead his team to the Super Bowl the following season.
Going into the season, Okudah was an option that nobody really even considered. Before the year started, the favorites for the award included Derrick Henry, Jameis Winston, Christian McCaffrey, and Michael Thomas. Mostly offensive players. In fact, the last four winners of the award were all quarterbacks, and the two before that were wide receivers. The last defensive player to win the trophy was Eric Berry in 2015, and before that, Greg Ellis in 2007. The defender with the highest odds going into the year was Chase Young, but he had lower odds than players he is better than, like Daniel Jones, Baker Mayfield, Mitchell Trubisky, and Marcus Mariota, which goes to show the bias towards quarterbacks. Already written off by most of the league, Barstool Sportsbook had his odds of winning the award at +10000 going into the year. It would take an elite performance to win the trophy, but Okudah is off to that start.
Through the first three weeks, Okudah has been locking down some of the best talent in the NFL. Week 1 was against the Philadelphia Eagles, which saw Okudah lineup against former Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Okudah helped hold Smith to only four targets on the day, allowing ZERO catches. Week 2 saw Okudah lineup against Terry McLaurin, who was around a top 10 to 15 receiver in the entire league last season. Terry was held to 75 receiving yards on 4/8 completions. The most impressive performance yet was Week 3 against the Vikings, where Okudah lined up against potentially the best receiver the league currently has in Justin Jefferson. The generational wideout was limited to three completions out of six targets for a measly 14 yards. Now yes, since he usually goes against the best receiver on the other team, he certainly gets some help from his safeties, but he is still the primary catalyst in stopping these targets. Afterall, Okudah was selected third overall because of how much of a shut-down cornerback he was in college. It took a while, but that player could be developing again in front of our eyes.
The Detroit Lions' defense still appears to be one of the worst in the league, which was predicted, but the start that Okudah is off to this season is a huge boost towards the future this franchise has in store. If Okudah keeps this up, I believe he has a better story deserving of Comeback Player of the Year versus the rest of his competition.
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