It wouldn't be an NFL draft without a handful of prospects coming off the board a lot sooner than you thought they would. Sometimes — the times when it’s made into a big deal — that means getting selected in the first round.
The 2020 NFL Draft was no exception.
While there were many teams that drafted well and improved their rosters greatly despite the uncertainty of the virtual draft format, there were still a few head-scratching picks.
The most publicized one was the Packers moving up for Utah State quarterback Jordan Love instead of drafting an offensive weapon for their incumbent passer Aaron Rodgers. It was a puzzling move, to say the least. The Seahawks also turned heads when they selected Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who has skills Seattle will use but could have likely been drafted much later than the first round.
Damon Arnette, a cornerback out of Ohio State, is another first-round reach. He was the fourth corner off the board at No. 19 to the Raiders.
Many analysts' pre-draft rankings had Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah and Florida's C.J. Henderson as their top two corners, not many had Arnette as their No. 4. For that, he’s largely considered a reach, but when you look at all of the reaches from Round 1, Arnette is the most poised to impress in 2020.
During the draft, Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden spoke with Sirius XM’s J.T. the Brick and praised Arnette, who he considers a future franchise player.
"We watched a lot of Ohio State film for obvious reason," Gruden said. "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."
The Raiders had a big need at cornerback after moving on from Gareon Conley. Trayvon Mullen developed nicely last season, but they still needed another player opposite him.
In steps Arnette or they certainly hope. But why him? If this pick was for a different cornerback — say Jeff Gladney or Kristian Fulton, even Trevon Diggs or Jaylon Johnson — it might not have been questioned as much. Gladney had the physicality, Fulton had to sticky man coverage ability, Diggs had the length and the ball skills and Johnson had a fearless, aggressive nature.
But the Raiders believe Arnette has a little bit of what teams like in all of those players, minus the length.
"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," Gruden said. "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."
There's nothing shy about Arnette, and Las Vegas loves that.
Eight out of the last 16 players the Raiders drafted over the last two years have been from either Ohio State, Clemson or Alabama — the three teams who have played in the most College Football Playoff and national championship games. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock love evaluating players in the brightest lights.
Starting in the NFL as a rookie cornerback is quite the challenge no matter where a player is drafted. But from everything we've heard, Las Vegas is confident with its Arnette pick and won't back down from giving him the chance to prove his worth very early in his career.
Arnette likely won't back down either.