Many expected the Las Vegas Raiders to go after a cornerback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but nobody expected them to take Damon Arnette. The former Ohio State starter was a solid player for the Buckeyes and a capable partner for number three overall pick Jeff Okudah. However, his age and reported character concerns led to some leaving him off their boards.
The Raiders didn’t care and Gruden went so far as to say that he liked Arnette just as much as he liked Okudah. While Arnette may not have been the most talented or youngest cornerback in the draft, he’s got the kind of swagger you’d expect from a cornerback donning the silver and black.
“I love Arnette,” Raiders defensive back coach Jim O’Neil told Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “He’s the ultimate football player. He is an unbelievable competitor, and that comes across the first time that you talk to him.
“He is an old-school Raiders cornerback, and there are not a lot of guys like him that exist anymore. And he’s not even close to his ceiling.”
Some of the best cornerbacks in NFL history have played for the Raiders, but recently, the team has done a very poor job at drafting the position. Arnette will hopefully buck that trend.
Arnette Calls Jon Gruden a ‘Dog’
If you want to be a Raider, you have to win over Jon Gruden. The head coach loves players who are tough, competitive and are willing to work hard. His style often resonates with players like that and Arnette appreciated Gruden’s approach.
“It was just how Coach Gruden talked to me, I could tell he meant what he was saying,” Arnette told Tafur. “It was just a different feel from how other teams were talking to me.”
The new Raiders cornerback also paid the coach a complement.
“I could tell that he was a dog like I was,” Arnette said
Gruden is a grinder and so is Arnette. The two will probably get along very well. While some have questioned Arnette’s character, he thinks it’s been overexaggerated.
“When you hear character concerns, you think about big problems, big red flags … woman beater, drug issues or run-ins with the law,” Arnette said. “That’s what you think of. It pissed me off because I don’t want anyone thinking that about me. In my case, it wasn’t none of that. I didn’t have character issues.
“It was really more of the media confusing a man growing up, maturing, with somebody who has character issues. I was going through shit for the first time, maybe I said some things the wrong way, but that’s different than being a grown-ass man with character issues who has done some bad things. You know what I am saying?”
General manager Mike Mayock and Gruden have made it a point to go after plays with strong character. If they thought it would be an actual issue with Arnette, they wouldn’t have taken him.
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Former OSU Coach Praises Arnette
Many questioned the move to draft Arnette early, but his former coaches and teammates have done nothing but praise him. Former Raiders defensive assistant Taver Johnson used to coach Arnette at Ohio State and he had a chance to comment on the cornerback.
“You saw the physicalness, the toughness — you heard it as well because he does talk a little bit,” Johnson told Tafur. “He needed to clean up some technique things, which you knew he would because he is a very smart player.”
He comes into the NFL with a ton of experience at the college level and could make an impact on the team from day one.