by Tom LaMarre
Many people believe the Las Vegas Raiders pulled off one of the steals of the NFL Draft when they picked cornerback Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech in the fourth round.
The Raiders think they got another one when they took cornerback Damon Arnette of Ohio State with the 19th pick of the first round, a move that many draft observers have called a big reach.
“We watched a lot of Ohio State film for obvious reason,” Coach Jon Gruden said told JT The Brick on Sirius XM. “We watched (Jeff) 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’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.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Arnette played opposite the consensus All-American Okudah, considered the best cornerback available in the draft, who was selected with the third overall pick by the Detroit Lions.
Most teams stayed away from Okudah, so Arnette got plenty of action and made 140 tackles, including 104 solo and four for losses, in addition breaking up 22 passes and making five interceptions in four seasons with the Buckeyes.
Arnette returned one of those interceptions 95 yards for a touchdown and didn’t allow more than one touchdown pass in any season.
The Raiders considered trading down in the first round, but were afraid Arnette wouldn’t be there later.
“The reason he’s not a reach is because of his grade in our system,” General Manager Mike Mayock said. “Did I think we could have moved down and got him? Maybe. But we didn’t want to lose him.
“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.”
One reason Arnette did not rank higher in mock drafts was because his official time for the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was a pedestrian 4.56 seconds. The Raiders clocked him in 4.43 seconds and another team had him in 4.47.
There is evidence on the tape of his run that 0.12 seconds ticked off the clock before Arnette even moved.
That might have given the Raiders a cornerback to start opposite Trayvon Mullen.