The Las Vegas Raiders went against the grain once again in round one, selecting Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette at pick No. 19 overall.
Heading into round one of the 2020 NFL draft, the Las Vegas Raiders were pegged by the consensus rankings to add a wide receiver and cornerback with the No.12 and No.19 overall picks. They did exactly that, but the selection of cornerback Damon Arnette caught most people by surprise as the majority of draft analysts had him suited to be a day two pick.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have proved once again, they aren’t swayed by anyone’s perception of a prospect when it comes to draft day. If they like a player, they’re going to take that player whether people on the outside have a similar opinion or not.
But did the Raiders pull the trigger a bit early on Arnette?
More than likely they could’ve drafted him after the No.19 pick but his college résumé does indicate for a plug and play type cornerback.
Arnette’s most eye-popping trait is his fiery competitive nature. He’s solid in coverage and shown the ability to disrupt the routes of pass-catchers, as he did at Ohio State with regularity. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed the lowest passer rating in single coverage of any draftable cornerback in college football.
Finding the proper fit is the number one classification when using premium draft capital on a first-round player and the Raiders’ staff feel like they’ve found a guy that fits their exact mold. Whether they could’ve traded back in round one or grabbed an early selection on day two are valid questions but Gruden and Mayock weren’t willing to risk losing their transformative prospect that they were set on.
Arnette played opposite of the nation’s number one cornerback prospect, Jeffrey Okudah. As a result, opposing teams shied away from Okudah’s side of the field, peppering Arnette more often. He held his own despite finishing the year with a cast on his right wrist, posting 35 tackles, one interception and eight pass break-ups. Over Arnette’s four collegiate seasons, he didn’t give up more than one touchdown in any of the years he spent in Columbus.
One aspect that diminished his draft stock was the underwhelming 4.56-second 40-yard dash he posted at the NFL combine. But according to Mayock, the Raiders had him clocked at 4.43 seconds.
Despite the fact that Arnette was a surprising first round pick, his performance on the field could be even more surprising based on the tape. Cornerback was not the deepest position group in the 2020 NFL Draft, and while Arnette may have seemed like a reach at the time, eyebrows could be raised if the fans see what Mayock and Gruden saw during the draft process.