For the third year in a row, the Las Vegas Raiders decided to turn some heads with one of their first-round picks. In 2018, Kolton Miller was a surprise. Last year, Clelin Ferrell was a surprise and this year, Damon Arnette was a surprise. Miller had a very bad rookie year but improved to become a solid player in year two. Ferrell struggled for most of his rookie campaign, but he’ll have a chance to turn things around in 2020.
Arnette will come into the NFL with a lot of experience but doesn’t boast the most exciting physical attributes and he’s a bit on the older side for a rookie. However, head coach Jon Gruden revealed in an interview with Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News that he doesn’t care about how others evaluated Arnette:
I just look at his tape. I’ve heard people say, ‘he’s not a first-round pick on our board.’ Well, whose board are we talking about? Then if you’re in to analytics, according to Profootballfocus.com he had the the best QB rating against him of any corner in the draft. I mean, he’s a hell of a player. That’s why I like him. He played at Ohio State. He played big in big games. He’s an excellent tackler, a confident corner. He’s comfortable in bump and run. When we watched him play against good receivers he played good. And he just gives us something we need, something we cherish here. A physical, press confident corner that’s not afraid to hit you.
Gruden previously has said that Arnette reminds him of Aqib Talib and that must’ve gotten him excited. It’s impossible to know if the Raiders could’ve traded down and picked up Arnette later in the draft, but it’s clear the team got who Gruden wanted.
Gruden Looking to Bring Speed Back to Raiders
With the Raiders’ first first-round pick, they selected Henry Ruggs out of Alabama. He wasn’t widely considered the top wide receiver in the draft, but it wasn’t entirely surprising that Las Vegas took him so early. Gruden is ready to bring the speed back to the silver and black:
We were able to really concentrate on Henry Ruggs, from our house, make a specific reel to ask him specific questions. We even asked him to memorize formations and asked him to regurgitate it to us, and I don’t think we had a receiver or anybody at any position perform better in terms of football intelligence than Henry Ruggs. A lot of it has to do with Alabama, playing the pro style system. A lot of it really had to do with this guy has the “it” factor. He loves it. He learns it quick. Comes easy to him. And we all know he’s fast physically. But when you find out he’s fast mentally, he can handle a lot of stuff. We think we’ve got someone with a chance to be great. You remember Cliff Branch. You remember the speed factor with the Raiders. It’s something we have to get back in our organization and we think Ruggs will be a big part of it.
The Raiders had been synonymous with speed for decades, but they’ve been lacking in that department for a few years now. That won’t be a problem anymore as Ruggs is possibly the fastest player in the NFL. He brings an entirely different dynamic to the team’s offense and his ability as more than just a fast player is undervalued.
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Will Both 1st Rounders Start Week 1?
The Raiders were really close to earning a playoff berth in 2019. Two of the biggest weaknesses the team had last year were at cornerback and wide receiver. The team didn’t really do much to upgrade either position in free agency, so there’s a very good chance both Ruggs and Arnette are starters in Week 1.
Ruggs is almost a lock to start as he played in a pro-style offense and is easily the team’s most talented wideout. Arnette seemed like he was going to be a lock, but the Raiders recently signed Prince Amukamara. That will make it a bit harder for Arnette to lock up a starting spot before the season.