Recent comments from Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank hinted at the possibility that the 2023 season will be a make-or-break year for head coach Arthur Smith. But on Thursday, Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski argued this fall will be a make-or-break season for Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Sobleski named eight players from the 2020 draft class who entered the league with a lot of hype but still need to prove themselves. Okudah landed on the list.
“Okudah entered his class as the consensus top cornerback prospect. He presented all of the physical traits teams prefer at the position, with smooth coverage skills,” Sobleski wrote. “Yet, issues immediately presented themselves at the professional level.
“A hamstring injury slowed the 6’1”, 205-pound defender through his first training camp and beginning to his rookie season. He suffered a season-ending core-muscle injury later in the year.
“Okudah’s sophomore campaign quickly turned into a lost season when he endured a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 1.
“Up-and-down play last year ultimately led to the trade since the current Lions regime had no previous ties to the top pick. The Falcons are gambling on Okudah’s remaining upside.”
Of all the reclamation projects around the NFL this year, Okudah is one of the most intriguing.
The Falcons acquired Okudah from the Lions for a 2023 fifth-round pick. As Sobleski indicated, Okudah was the top cornerback prospect from his class. However, injuries and poor play in 2023 dropped his value.
Only needing to sacrifice a Day 3 pick to acquire him, the Falcons are counting on Okudah finally fulfilling his potential. He will have the opportunity to start at cornerback for the Falcons opposite A.J. Terrell.
One other cornerback, Carolina Panthers’ C.J. Henderson, made Sobleski’s list. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected him at No. 9 overall in 2020.
Edge rusher Chase Young, defensive back Isaiah Simmons, and defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw were also on Sobleski’s list. On offense, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and offensive linemen Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton made the list.