The Oakland Raiders’ selection of Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the No. 19 pick was one of the stunners of the NFL draft’s first round on Thursday.
Arnette was widely rated as a second-round talent. Yahoo Sports draft expert Eric Edholm had him rated as the No. 49 prospect in the draft, which slates his value as a late second-round pick.
That the Raiders used one of the picks gained in the Khalil Mack trade to select him magnified the scrutiny of the pick. The team and its faithful have long preached patience on waiting for the return on those picks to assess a true evaluation of the Mack deal. Which is fair.
Now we have the first glimpse of what that return looks like. So far, it’s not great.
General manager Mike Mayock explained the decision in a conference call with reporters after the first round.
“The reason he’s not a reach is because of his grade in our system,” Mayock said. “Did I think we could have moved down and got him? Maybe. But we didn’t want to lose him.”
Maycock then described Arnette as “tough as nails” while explaining why Arnette was, in fact, not a reach.
“What distinguishes him is, No. 1 he can run,” Mayock said. “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. So, to answer your question, we don’t feel, at all, like this is a reach."
Were the Raiders right on Arnette?
Maybe Mayock and the Raiders knew something everybody else didn’t. Maybe Arnette will turn out to be one of the top defenders in the draft and Las Vegas knew it would miss out on him if it waited. Only time will tell. As long as Mayock argues that on their board Arnette was a first-round talent, then so be it.
It’s a fine strategy to shut down a critical take on a bad decision.
But it doesn’t address the reality that Arnette was likely going to be available later in the draft, and the Raiders squandered a chance to gain value by trading back if he was their guy. Because of hubris. Or risk-aversion. Or simple mismanagement.
The alternative is that the Raiders knew something that nobody else did. And if they did, they’re not saying so.
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