Well, we now know for sure that the Las Vegas Raiders wanted a receiver and a cornerback in the first round. We just didn’t know it was those two players.
After the Raiders bypassed perceived top receiver options CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy in favor of speedster Henry Ruggs III at No. 12, they made a bigger surprise pick by taking Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 19.
Arnette was considered either the first big surprise pick (if you’re nice), or the first reach pick (if you’re a little cynical), of the first round. Immediately after the pick, ESPN’s Mel Kiper said Arnette had an early-second round grade. Daniel Jeremiah said Arnette was the eighth cornerback on his list. ESPN thought it was nearly impossible that Arnette would be taken in the top 20.
Entering the first round, ESPN's NFL Draft Predictor had an 0.1% chance that Arnette would be selected in the first 20 picks, per @ESPNStatsInfo— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) April 24, 2020
Arnette was the fourth cornerback taken, after college teammate Jeff Okudah went at No. 3 to Detroit, C.J. Henderson (Florida) went to Jacksonville at No. 9, and A.J. Terrell (Clemson) went to Atlanta at No. 16. There was a chance the Raiders would have taken Henderson at No. 12 if he’d still been available, because the cornerback class really dropped after that.
Many people around the league thought Kristian Fulton (LSU) and Jaylon Johnson (Utah) were among the better options than Arnette at No. 19. But, for the Raiders, the choice was Arnette.
Here is some insight on Arnette from the NFL Network.
Damon Arnette was one of my potential first-round surprises. He goes No. 19 to the #Raiders. https://t.co/jG8pCGp4IO pic.twitter.com/NPJhPCMcIP— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 24, 2020
Arnette, overshadowed by Okudah in college, is known for being tough and is solid in run support. Maturity has been an issue. But like the above tweet reads, he loves football. That screams Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock.
Let’s see if it pays off. Arnette will have a chance to play right along with second-year players Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson. Mullen, who flashed late last year, will surely start.
Pro Focus Football has an interesting Arnette comparison:
The @PFF comp for Damon Arnette is Gareon Conley, who they traded last year for a 3rd pick ... wow! #NFLDraft2020— John Allen (@AllenReports) April 24, 2020
Like the Ruggs pick, this choice has the chance to be remembered for a long time. The Raiders could have taken Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, who the Chargers moved up to take at No. 23. And with receiver Jerry Jeudy in Denver after Las Vegas chose Ruggs over him, the Raiders now have to deal with multiple quality players they bypassed in their division.
Las Vegas reportedly tried to trade down, but couldn’t find a taker.
In the end, the Raiders didn’t take a quarterback like Jordan Love, which was so often rumored. They took two players from big schools, which is a Mayock model. They may be reaches, but the Raiders clearly believe in both Ruggs and Arnette.