Jeff Okudah

Jon Gruden reiterates Raiders' Damon Arnette better than Jeff Okudah

Jon Gruden reiterates Raiders' Damon Arnette better than Jeff Okudah

Jon Gruden's draft-night praise of Damon Arnette wasn't just the Raiders coach trying to gas up his new corner.

When Gruden called the Ohio State corner to inform him the Raiders were drafting him with the No. 19 overall pick, Gruden told Arnette he believes he's better than Jeff Okudah, who was drafted No. 3 overall and was Arnette's teammate in Columbus, Ohio.

That wasn't just Gruden being Gruden.

"We watched a lot of Ohio State film for obvious reason," Gruden told JT The Brick on Sirius XM after the second round of the draft. "We watched Okudah. Obviously, we were in the market for a corner and when you watch Okudah you can't help but watch Arnette. I'll be honest with you I like Arnette as much as Okudah. If you look at the production, Arnette's got more production. He played last year hurt with a broken right wrist. I think he's the best tackler in the draft. I think he's an old-school, bump-and-run Raider cornerback that's physical and nasty.

"He reminds me a lot -- I'm not going to guarantee this -- but he reminds me a lot of Aqib Talib, a guy we drafted in Tampa several years ago. He's a guy that has great confidence in himself, comes from a big arena at Ohio State and the bigger the game the better he played."

Okudah is one of the most technically sound corners to come into the draft in years. He's got all the physical gifts to be a lockdown corner at the NFL level. Arnette is no slouch at cornerback, though. 

He's got the size, ball skills, physicality and mentality to be exactly what the Raiders are looking for. Gruden's praise is high, and there's no doubt he believes Arnette was the best corner in the draft.

If Gruden turns out to be prophetic, the Raiders will have pulled off a draft-night heist. But, for now, the Arnette pick will remain heavily criticized until the play can do the talking.

Most people were shocked when the Raiders took Arnette off the board with the No. 19 overall pick. Cornerbacks Kristian Fulton, Jeff Gladney, Trevon Diggs and Jaylon Johnson -- all who were projected to be drafted ahead of Arnette -- still were on the board and the Raiders could have traded down to acquire more picks and take Arnette a little bit later.

General manager Mike Mayock shut down the notion that the Raiders reached for Arnette, saying they were afraid if they moved down in the draft that they would miss their shot to draft him.

Arnette, 23, is a physical cornerback who thrives at disrupting routes at the line of scrimmage. He can play inside and out, but the Raiders expect him to fill the outside cornerback hole opposite Trayvon Mullen. With most opposing quarterbacks throwing away from his teammate Okudah, Arnette was tested a lot during his senior season at Ohio State and thrived, holding opposing quarterbacks to the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted in single coverage.

Arnette was a fixture in the Buckeyes' secondary since his sophomore season. He thought about declaring for the NFL draft after his junior season, but returned to work on his game and improve his legacy at Ohio State. He quelled any character concerns teams might have had during a senior season where he put the team first and helped spearhead a defense -- along with top-five picks Okudah and Chase Young -- that led Ohio State to the College Football Playoffs.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day praised Arnette following the draft. He wasn't surprised the Raiders drafted Arnette at No. 19, he was more surprised draft experts believed the corner wouldn't be drafted until the late second round.

“I think when you look at his body of work and versatility and the fact that you are getting a fifth-year senior that has played a lot of football,” Day said of Arnette via Rivals. “You are getting a mature guy who competed at a high level. (He) showed toughness, playing with a broken hand. He is definitely a first-round talent and I think he is going to play really well.”

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There will be no time for Arnette to learn to swim in the AFC West. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs got even more dangerous by adding LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Denver Broncos overhauled their offense with the addition of Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler and the Los Angeles Chargers drafted their next quarterback in Oregon's Justin Herbert.

Arnette has all the tools to be a good NFL corner. He tested poorly at the NFL Scouting Combine but blamed his 4.56 40 time on a hamstring issue. He's a perfect scheme fit for the Raiders. He's got the toughness, mentality and edge that Gruden loves and the Raiders want to define their team.

The pick at 19 will be debated for a while, but that's a fool's errand. Arnette can silence everyone with his play in silver and black.

Especially if he really is better than Okudah.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Jon Gruden says Damon Arnette better than Jeff Okudah on NFL draft call

Jon Gruden says Damon Arnette better than Jeff Okudah on NFL draft call

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.

"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.

[RELATED: Mayock doesn't believe Arnette was reach at No. 19]

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.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL Draft 2020: Who are the six prospects 49ers would take at No. 13?

NFL Draft 2020: Who are the six prospects 49ers would take at No. 13?

49ers general manager John Lynch suggested during a video conference with reporters on Monday there are a half-dozen players he and coach Kyle Shanahan have targeted as options to select with the team’s No. 13 overall pick.

“It's kind of boiled down to that process where Kyle and I are really zeroing in and challenging each other,” Lynch said.

"We’re playing out a couple more scenarios in our head, but we'll be prepared come draft day.”

The 49ers seem to be open for business if a team wants to trade up to No. 13.

There might be six players the 49ers are willing to select with their first draft selection on Thursday night, as Lynch suggested, but how many players would prompt the 49ers to brush aside any and all trade requests? Two? Three? Four?

Lynch calls these prospects “foundational players.” But who are they?

Of course, most of them will already be off the board when it is the 49ers’ turn to go on the clock. Here is a list of prospects that could offer the 49ers what they want at No. 13:

DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

The 49ers have a lot of snaps on the interior of their defensive line to replace after sending DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in a trade for the No. 13 overall pick.

Brown (6-foot-4 5/8, 326 pounds) is a run-stuffing machine who needs some refinement in his pass-rush skills. He is so big, strong and quick that he is capable of much more than what he showed in college as an interior pass-rusher.

Brown is the only defensive tackle that makes this list of options at No. 13 overall, though we did give serious consideration to Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina, too.

CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

Jeff Okudah appears to be a good fit for the 49ers’ three-deep scheme due to his size, physical traits and smarts. This is also a wise selection for the 49ers because they currently have none of their top cornerbacks under contract beyond this season. Okudah, as would be the case with any rookie cornerback added during the draft, would come in and learn from Richard Sherman.

Could there be another cornerback on this list? It’s possible that C.J. Henderson (Florida) or A.J. Terrell (Clemson) could end up as the 49ers’ top pick, too. Terrell would be more likely with a trade-back option.

OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama

Lynch said this week of All-Decade left tackle Joe Staley: “We’ve heard nothing that would lead us to believe that Joe is not going to play.”

Obviously, it does not help the 49ers to completely tip their hand about what they consider their top areas to address during the draft, so Lynch played that one correctly.

That is why we’re going to list the top four offensive tackles in this draft as options for the 49ers at No. 13.

Again, it’s entirely possible that each of these players will be selected within the first dozen picks. Jedrick Willis is a mauling run-blocker with the feet of a basketball player. There’s a good chance he will be the first O-lineman off the board, perhaps as early as No. 4 to the New York Giants.

OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Tristan Wirfs has received high-caliber coaching at Iowa under former NFL offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz. Wirfs is versatile enough to play just about anywhere he is needed. Some teams might consider him a better NFL fit at guard. He would be a huge addition to the 49ers -- wherever he's needed.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

OT Mehki Becton, Louisville

Do not be fooled by his size. At 6-foot-7 3/8, 364 pounds, Mehki Becton is nimble enough to execute the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme. His time in the 40-yard dash was just .05 slower than Wills, who weighs 52 pounds lighter.

OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Andrew Thomas is another top-10 talent at offensive tackle, whom the 49ers must seriously consider if he slides past the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 12 overall.

OK, so there are six players and we did not even mention the position that most believe is the team’s top priority entering this draft . . .

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The Wide Receivers

The top three receivers in this draft are generally thought to be CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) and Henry Ruggs (Alabama). Throw in Justin Jefferson (LSU), too.

Nobody would be shocked if the 49ers selected any one of those four players at No. 13.

But with the quality depth at wide receiver throughout this draft, the 49ers’ best plan of attack might be to trade down, pick up a second-day pick, and still get a high-quality receiver a little later.