The Raiders shocked some Thursday night when they selected Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Arnette was the fourth cornerback off the board, following his college teammate, Jeff Okudah (No. 3), Florida's CJ Henderson (No. 9) and Clemson's A.J. Terrell (No. 16). Arnette was viewed by most as a late second-round pick, but coach Jon Gruden's draft call to Arnette shows how much the Silver and Black truly believe in his ability.
Coach Gruden and GM Mike Mayock are building a foundation, and @damon_arnette is ready to protect this house 🏠— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) April 24, 2020
Watch the call he got from Coach Gruden to join the Silver and Black. pic.twitter.com/BuVqG5N8nl
"Hey, are you better than Okudah?" Gruden asked Arnette, who responded with a "yes, sir."
"You're god damn right," Gruden said. "You're going to have a lot to prove to everybody."
Gruden is a good hype man, to be sure. But that also shows how impressed he was with what he saw on tape from Arnette.
Arnette is a physical corner who excels in press-man coverage. He can get handsy at times, and his technique needs to be refined. He has al the tools to become an effective corner for the Silver and Black.
Okudah, on the other hand, is seen as the most technically sound corner to come out of college in years, which is why the Detroit Lions took him No. 3 overall. Arnette was targeted early and often this past season, as opposing quarterbacks chose to go after him rather than Okudah. Arnette held up, allowing the lowest passer rating when targeted in single coverage.
While the Arnette selection has been criticized as a reach, Gruden's belief in his new corner is evident, and shows why the Raiders felt the need to take him instead of trade down and risk losing him.
Arnette and Trayvon Mullen give the Raiders a tough, talented duo on the outside. They'll be tested often in an AFC West that features the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, the revamped Denver Broncos offense, and a Los Angeles Chargers team that drafted quarterback Justin Herbert No. 6 overall to lead their offense.
Time will tell if Arnette was worthy of the high selection and is better than Okudah. But it's evident that his competitiveness and underdog mentality will suit him well in Las Vegas.
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