The Raiders entered the 2020 NFL Draft’s first round with two picks and two pressing needs. It seemed logical that they’d address both receiver and cornerback with the Nos. 12 and 19 selections, and that’s exactly what they did.
They just didn’t take players everyone expected. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
They took speed with the 12th pick, adding Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs. Then they went for a scheme fit at No. 19 with Ohio State’s Damon Arnette, someone experts expected to go in the second or third round.
It doesn’t matter what the experts think. Jon Gruden’s opinion matters most, with Mike Mayock behind that.
Fans surely raised a Chucky-style eyebrow at this pick, but the Raiders were happy to get an aggressive, press-man cornerback who should come in and compete to play right away in Las Vegas.
Arnette was heavily penalized in coverage and was a bit too aggressive as a junior in 2018 but improved his draft stock significantly after deciding to return at Ohio State.
Arnette is a fierce competitor and an excellent run defender, something the Raiders respect in their defensive backs. He’s solid in coverage and a timing disruptor at the line of scrimmage and, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, he allowed the lowest passer rating in single coverage of anyone in this draft class. He doesn’t have a ton of interceptions but can play off in zone or man coverage.
Fit is the most important thing in these situations, even if the selection seems like a reach they could’ve gotten on Day 2. The fact the Raiders didn’t have another pick until No. 80 and they weren’t able to trade down surely played a role here. Arnette would’ve been gone by the next time the Raiders were on the clock and the cornerback talent pool would’ve thinned considerably.
They had several options at their disposal in Jaylon Johnson, Trevon Diggs and Kristian Fulton. A.J. Terrell went off the board a few picks prior. The Clemson product was thought to be another scheme fit and Raiders target, especially to pair him with fellow outside cornerback and former Tiger Trayvon Mullen.
The Raiders have a vacancy in the starting lineup that Arnette will compete to fill right away. Isaiah Johnson will vie for that job as well, with Nevin Lawson has a veteran backup plan. It’s also possible the Raiders add another veteran cornerback after the draft.
We can talk about reach and perceived value until we’re blue in the face but finding a player that fits the locker-room culture and defensive scheme is all that matters here. The Raiders added a talent player at a position of need, with the size and play strength to do what’s required of him in Paul Guenther’s system as the Raiders try to find long-term solutions at cornerback after years of instability at the position.
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