Ohio State Football: Why Las Vegas Raiders rolled dice on Damon Arnette

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 23: Damon Arnette #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes intercepts a pass against the UNLV Rebels in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 23: Damon Arnette #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes intercepts a pass against the UNLV Rebels in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders took former Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the 19th pick in the NFL Draft adding to the Buckeye’s long list of first round defensive backs.

Ohio State’s Damon Arnette was widely regarded as a second round cornerback prospect but Las Vegas Raiders’ General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden thought otherwise by selecting him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Arnette became the 31st Buckeye defensive back drafted in the first round since 2000.

Arnette spent five years in Ohio State’s football program and had the privilege of playing alongside six fellow first round defensive backs. In 2015, Arnette redshirted and had to wait his turn behind former first round picks Gareon Conley and Eli Apple.

During his four year playing career, Arnette recorded 140 tackles and 5 interceptions. The DB considered leaving Ohio State after his junior season, but after conversations with the coaching staff and former Buckeye and Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, he decided to stay in Columbus for his senior season. The decision clearly paid off as he earned second-team All-Big Ten in 2019.

Arnette provides prototypical size at 6-0, 195 pounds. He moved around in Ohio State’s defense playing on both the outside and slot position.

He has experience playing both man coverage and in zone. The knock on Arnette in the pre-draft process was his lack of burst.

He ran a 4.55 second 40-yard dash. In comparison, former teammate Jeffrey Okudah, who was the third selection in this year’s NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, ran a 4.48.

Arnette also has average length as the other five corners who went in round one all measure up as lengthier corners. Despite Arnette’s measurements, Mayock and Gruden have set a precedent that the Raiders’ board is unlike any other team’s.

In 2019 the Raiders selected former Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall selection. It was a pick that was highly regarded as a reach, but Ferrell turned out to be a force up front for the Raiders.

The Raiders also selected former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs in the first round. The Jacobs selection was questioned due to his lack of production in college. He then went on to be in the NFL’s Rookie of the Year race.

The Raiders’ first selection in the 2020 draft is another Bama prospect and what most draft experts labeled as the third best wide receiver, Henry Ruggs III. The Raiders have clearly made picks that some people find head-scratching but these top picks all have one thing in common. Elite programs.

The Las Vegas Raiders took a chance on Damon Arnette because he comes from an elite program with an elite pedigree. With a guy like Damon Arnette you can throw measurements out the window. He is a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; it’s a high school that has produced the most NFL players in history.

Arnette also brings high-end toughness to the table. In 2018, Arnette struggled in coverage for some of the season and caught a lot of criticism from fans and media. For the entire 2019 season Arnette played with a broken wrist. Despite the knocks and despite the injury, Arnette managed to come back and piece together a decorated senior season.

At Arnette’s core he is tough, plays with a short memory, has an elite pedigree and provides versatility. Despite the fact he was rarely called upon to be the Buckeyes’ top cover guy, Arnette proved he has what it takes to be a great corner in the NFL.

He’s sat behind, played alongside or learned from big NFL names like Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell and Jeffrey Okudah, just to name a few. It’s experience that cannot be replaced.

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NFL Draft experts might call Arnette the biggest reach in the first-round, but five years of experience in the best football program in America and playing for, historically, the best defensive back unit in the land is one thing the majority of defensive backs cannot say about themselves in this year’s NFL Draft.