Damon Arnette, Las Vegas Raiders Ready to Silence Critics

Darin Alexander Baydoun

Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, it widely accepted that the first defensive back taken in the first round would be a cornerback from Ohio State. That player, though, was not Damon Arnette, the 19th overall pick in the draft and the Las Vegas Raiders second first-round pick of the night. That player was Arnette’s teammate, Jeff Okudah, taken by the Detroit Lions with the third pick in the draft.

To many, it came as a surprise to see Arnette go that high. In their initial rankings, Sports Illustrated didn’t have Arnette among their top five prospects at the position, instead of having him at No. 8. CBS Sports had Arnette as their 10th-ranked cornerback and 64th overall prospect. Pro Football Focus

If you ask Arnette, going in the first round didn’t surprise him the slightest.

“I consider myself one of the best players in the draft,” Arnette said on a post-draft conference call. “I feel like the best players go in the first round, so I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but I’m definitely thankful for it and grateful for the opportunity.”

It’s the kind of mindset a team would want from any player. Considering the pressure that will be on Arnette to help fix the Raiders' ailing pass defense from last season, it’s a mindset that will likely serve him well in his rookie year, especially with many wondering if he was a reach at No. 19.

Arnette certainly won’t have to look far for support, though, as Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock espoused on his qualities on a post-draft conference call, saying: “What distinguishes him is, No. 1 he can run. No. 2, he’s tough as nails, and when you talk about competitors, he played most of the season with a cast on his arm. He can play outside; he can play inside, he can play left, he can play right. We feel like this is one of the most competitive football players in the entire draft. We don’t feel, at all, like this is a reach.”

Considering that, as well as Arnette’s abilities as both a run defender and in press coverage (allowed the lowest passer rating in single coverage of any corner in this year’s draft class), it might be in a few years that pundits discuss why Arnette didn’t go higher in this year’s draft. 

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