How Lions-Falcons trade for Jeff Okudah could impact 2023 NFL Draft

With the long and winding road to the 2023 NFL Draft coming to a close, we in the football media are starting to fire off some of our hottest takes. Whether it is the idea that Will Anderson Jr. is not one of the top pass rushers in the class to Hendon Hooker as potentially QB1, there is an overwhelming sentiment that the draft itself just needs to get here.

Thankfully, we do have some actual news to discuss. On Tuesday the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons agreed to a trade involving cornerback Jeff Okudah. The Lions are sending the former first-round selection to Atlanta in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round selection.

The move gives Okudah a fresh start in the NFC South, after struggling to stay in the starting lineup with the Lions.

Beyond that, it could shake up the start of the 2023 NFL Draft. Here’s how.

The Lions still have a few different options in the first round, including CB

Early in draft season, before NFL free agency got underway, cornerback was one of the most common positions addressed by the Lions in mock drafts.

However, moves made by Detroit during free agency saw things shift around the Lions. With the additions of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cameron Sutton, and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency, adding those players around Okudah seemed to indicate that Detroit would go in a different direction with the sixth-overall selection.

That lead to players such as Jalen Carter, Tyree Wilson, and even Will Anderson Jr. being trendy picks for the Lions.

However, with the trade of Okudah the door is back open to cornerback. Could this now be the landing spot for Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon? What about Devon Witherspoon from Illinois, who seems like the kind of player that Dan Campbell would love to have in his secondary?

Of course, the relative depth of the cornerback class could still see the Lions go in a different direction, even with this trade. If the board indeed sees four quarterbacks to start the draft, Detroit could be looking at one of Carter or Anderson staring them in the face. Adding one of those players at six, and then addressing cornerback with their pick at 18 (Joey Porter Jr. and Deonte Banks are options at that point in the first round), brings a massive injection of talent to the defense for Detroit next season.

This kind of approach is one advocated by Jeff Risdon, who covers the Lions:

Either way, it looks like the Okudah move brings CB back into focus, and gives the Lions a chance to add some defensive talent in a few weeks.

Something you know Campbell would love to see.

Atlanta at 8 can do literally anything

I really like this deal for Atlanta. I’m a fan of Jeff Okudah, but he had a weird 2022. Came out the gate firing and looked like he was putting it all together, but then got benched and had his season ended unceremoniously. I’m a believer in Okudah’s tools and think he can build on the early part of his 2022 in Atlanta, with a fresh start.

Now as for Atlanta at the eighth spot in the NFL Draft, the door is pretty wide open for almost anything. The Okudah trade, along with Casey Hayward still on the roster makes me believe they won’t spend another first round pick on an outside cornerback, but you never know. Atlanta is probably of the belief that the top two cornerbacks, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, will be gone already (Detroit at 6 and Las Vegas at 7 are the most likely spots), which means one of the top defensive linemen could fall to them at 8.

This is potentially the best case scenario for Atlanta. They signed DT David Onyemata in free agency along with EDGE Kaden Elliss, but I don’t think that ties them to not addressing the position in the draft. If, say Tyree Wilson falls to Atlanta at 8, that might be the perfect guy to slot in Atlanta’s defensive line. Georgia’s Jalen Carter could fall to 8, and while having three defensive tackles could cause a problem, Carter’s talent might be far too much to pass up on. An interesting name to watch here: Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. Atlanta still needs to address their offensive line, with LG Jalen Mayfield not living up to potential. Many scouts believe that Skoronski is better at guard (I still think he should start at tackle) but in Atlanta, Skoronski can play left guard, and if Jake Matthews wants out (there’s a potential out in his contract at the end of 2023 according to Spotrac) Skoronski can slide back outside.

Then there’s Bijan Robinson.

Yes, I know about the value of RBs and selecting one this high in the draft. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find a guy as valuable with the potential to be special in a modern offense like Robinson. Cordarrelle Patterson will be 32 this season and the Falcons can get out from that contract if they wanted to. Tyler Allgeier is a fine back, but Robinson has the potential to be very good in that offense if they want to pull that trigger.

The world is their oyster at 8, and Atlanta can do anything they want to at this point.