Las Vegas Raiders rookie cornerback Damon Arnette is 23-years-old right now and will turn 24 in August, making him one of the oldest first round picks of the last decade. By being listed at 24 as a rookie, Arnette joins 11 other players since 2010 to enter the league at that advanced of an age.
Here are the others:
- Bruce Irvin, Ryan Tannehill, Sylvester Williams, Kyle Long, Ezekiel Ansah, Mike McGlinchey, Kaleb McGary, and Garrett Bradbury were also 24.
- Garett Bolles and Hayden Hurst were 25.
- Brandon Weeden was 28.
One you weeden out the last guy, we see nine first round picks at 24 or 25. Keep in mind that 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow was born only three months after Arnette. Fellow first round corner Jeff Gladney was born two days after Burrow. This may seem like splitting hairs or making a mountain out of a molehill to focus on Arnette’s age, but I think it is a totally fair and reasonable note to put a magnifying glass on for two reasons:
- You have to split hairs at some point and at this point, a player of Arnette’s age only gets drafted in the first round about once per year.
- The NFL has clearly made important value distinctions between a 21-year-old and a 23-year-old or a 22-year-old and a 24-year-old and they’ve answered in their actions as only Tannehill, Ansah, and McGlinchey went in the top 10.
Burrow is only a few months younger than Arnette and went first overall, but he too is an exception. We can’t let our exceptions fuzzy the picture on the rule. Most of these older first rounders are going later than an “average” expectation of 16.
Half of the 24+ year age group first rounders wen 20th or later. Out of 74 players age 23 or older to be drafted in the first round since 2011, only 29 were taken 15th or earlier. This rings especially true for defensive backs.
Since 2011, 12 defensive backs aged 23 or older have been drafted in the first round, with Arnette being the oldest. Of those, none were drafted in the top-10 and only D.J. Hayden and Trae Waynes were taken in the top-15. Here are the other 23-year-old first round defensive backs of recent seasons:
- Jimmy Smith, Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Jimmie Ward, Jason Verrett, Damarious Randall, Kevin Johnson, William Jackson, Gladney
I don’t know if there’s any connection that can be made to their age, but you may notice one disturbing pattern, as J Smith, Hayden, Ward, Johnson, Jackson, and Verrett have all dealt with being injury prone and/or missing all or most of a season due to injury. Arnette did not have an extensive injury history at Ohio State, although he played with a broken wrist last season and was reportedly nagged by injuries at the combine that apparently slowed down his 40-time. Allegedly.
Of the DBs you see above, H Smith is a fantastic safety, Rhodes had a few good years at cornerback, so obviously the Minnesota Vikings don’t mind age. That was also the case with Waynes, who at least seems to have gotten better over his career. Now they’ve got Gladney, their fourth advanced age first round defensive back of the decade.
Verrett may have become great if not for the injuries.
For Arnette, he simply redshirted as a freshman, then played a full four seasons at Ohio State. He could have tried his luck a year ago but he opted to return and if anything, probably upped his value. A lot of people just didn’t seem to know it before the Raiders selected him 19th overall. And there may be nothing wrong with taking the oldest first round cornerback in years.
Kyle Long was very good. Ansah, Tannehill, Irvin, McGlinchey have all been serviceable to good. We’ll see on some of the younger guys besides McGlinchey.
Among 23-year-olds are Aaron Donald, Brandon Scherff, Carson Wentz, Ryan Ramczyk, Zack Martin, Khalil Mack, Taylor Lewan, Lane Johnson, Melvin Ingram, A.J. Green, Harrison Smith, and Rhodes. Some great players. Some really great players.
Arnette could be one of the best 24-year-old rookies in league history for all we know at this point. A lot could happen and I don’t want this to sound like an indictment on the pick or Arnette because he is older than most of the others entering the league right now.
It’s just notable.