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Why The Raiders Did Not Reach for Damon Arnette

The Las Vegas Raiders pulled off the biggest surprise pick on night one of the 2020 NFL Draft. At pick 19 on Thursday night, the Raiders selected cornerback Damon Arnette from Ohio State. Following their fourth overall selection of Clelin Ferrell last year, this is becoming a pattern for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. Their board is not the same as your board.

Immediately, most analysts labeled the Arnette selection as another Raiders’ reach, especially with the likes of Kristian Fulton, Trevon Diggs, Noah Igbinoghene, and Jaylon Johnson. still on the board at the same position. 

This would be an incorrect way of thinking. Arnette was not a reach. Rather, he was another strong selection by Gruden and Mayock, as they were able to lock up the opposite starting cornerback to Trayvon Mullen

Yes, Arnette is a bit slower (4.56 40-yard dash) and his arms are not as long as scouts would’ve liked (30 inches), but Damon Arnette is a Raiders’ type cornerback. He is extremely physical, has NFL size, and is tough as nails. Last season, he played all year with a cast covering a broken wrist.

He punches gaps and fills holes like a man possessed. If Raider fans are looking for a Gareon Conley comparison, they won’t find one. Arnette could make an easy case for the best tackling corner in the entire draft. 

Last season as a Buckeye, Arnette allowed just one touchdown and a 38 percent catch rate, while being targeted almost exclusively, lining up opposite Jeff Okudah. He can excel in both man and zone coverage. Additionally, in single coverage, Arnette allowed the lowest passer rating in single coverage of any cornerback in the draft. 

The Raiders could have gone a plurality of ways at pick 19, whether it was linebacker, a safety, or a different corner than Arnette. At the end of the day, though, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden got their guy. Could they have traded down a bit and still gotten Arnette? Probably, but the risk just wasn’t worth it, as Mayock said Thursday night. They saw their man on the board, and they locked him up. 

No, Damon Arnette was not a reach for the Las Vegas Raiders. Instead, he will become a fixture at a position that the Raiders have struggled with for many years.

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