The Raiders raised a lot of eyebrows when drafted cornerback Damon Arnette with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Arnette was viewed by many analysts as the fifth or sixth-best cornerback in the class and a Day 2 selection. But Jon Gruden snapped him up and praised Arnette almost immediately, saying he believed he was better than Jeff Okudah, who played with Arnette at Ohio State and was drafted No. 3 overall by the Detroit Lions.
During his senior season at Ohio State, Arnette had the lowest passer rating allowed in single coverage of any corner in the draft class, including Okudah. He enters Raiders training camp in a battle with Prince Amukamara, Amik Robertson, Isaiah Johnson and Nevin Lawson for the No. 2 cornerback role opposite Trayvon Mullen. While most expect the veteran Amukamara to have the upper hand in the battle, Arnette has been running with the first team in camp and flashed the man coverage skills that had Gruden on Wednesday.
During one-on-one drills, Arnette ran stride for stride with fellow first-round draft pick Henry Ruggs and high-pointed the ball and picked off the throw, which of course had the rookie hyped up.
Arnette ran a 4.5 at the NFL Scouting Combine, which caused many analysts to wonder if he had the necessary speed to keep up with top-flight receivers at the NFL level. While it's just one rep, it shows there's a difference between testing speed and game speed. Arnette has great press-man technique, showed a fluid hip turn and good ball skills to finish off the play.
He has undoubtedly heard all the talk of him being a reach at No. 19. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is no doubt motivated to earn the starting job out of the gates and silence his critics.
Arnette's ability to start right away and be a good NFL corner immediately -- much like Trayvon Mullen was last season when he was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 8 -- would be a huge boost to a Raiders' secondary that surrendered over 10 yards per pass on the outside last season and ranked 31st in pass defense by DVOA.
It's only one rep, but it's one that showcased what Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock saw in Arnette when they called his name at No. 19 overall. A talented press-man corner with the football speed to cover the best athletes in the NFL and the ball skills to create turnovers -- something else the Raiders' defense was awful at in 2019.
It's early in camp, but so far Arnette is living up to his first-round billing.