Are the Las Vegas Raiders really prepared to give up on a first-round pick after one season of NFL football? Vic Tafur has noted that Damon Arnette, who many considered a reach when selected out of Ohio State, is struggling to find his way at mini-camp.
The addition of Casey Hayward might signal the end of Arnette as the number two corner across from Trayvon Mullen. With new competition at slot corner, he might not have an option there either.
The question is: What are the Raiders thinking?
There are plenty of good reasons to apply patience with NFL talent. There are even more considering the investment of a first-round pick. Here are three reasons why the Raiders are making a mistake shelving Arnette.
Arnette was a first-round pick
In the NFL, first-round picks are more valuable than almost any other asset available (often times even more than good players themselves). Spending one of these picks on a player is a significant investment.
The Raiders cannot simply cut the cord on top talent without really trying to get the most out of them. It’s a coach’s responsibility to get production out of their players; If the player doesn’t fit the system, you change the system to accommodate talent.
There is no doubt Arnette was a big-time college athlete. Playing opposite Jeff Okudah (who struggled mightily in his rookie year, for those keeping scores) he posted big numbers: 27 passes defended (five interceptions; 22 pass breakups) and 140 career tackles. His senior year included an injured hand. The talent is there, it’s not his fault he could potentially be blacklisted by Jon Gruden and co.
the Raiders spent more on their secondary than any other team in the last 5 yrs:
4 first round picks (most in NFL)
6 picks in the first 2 rds (most)
10 picks in the first 4 rds (most)
yet their pass D ranked
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) June 18, 2021
Arnette had no real offseason program
2020 may have been the worst year to be an NFL rookie. It’s hard enough making the transition from college to the pros. Try dealing with that situation in the middle of a global pandemic! It’s all of the expectations, with none of the opportunity to be successful.
Let’s not go overboard and say it’s impossible to succeed in this environment. It absolutely is, there were some rookies who took the NFL by storm. But cutting bait on a player after one year? This year of all years?? What type of expectation did you have?
Given how poorly Paul Guenther teaches defense, having those bad habits taught in a crash-course virtual format seems even more disastrous. Henry Ruggs III didn’t perform as well as he could have either, it doesn’t make sense to give up on one player and not the other.
Gruden couldn’t stop talking about COVID and the difficulties it produced for teams trying to get ready for a grueling NFL season. Why isn’t he taking that into account here?
Arnette had terrible injury luck
If the virtual camps and lack of practice didn’t make it hard enough, injuries wiped out any sliver of hope for production in the 2020 season.
Is Gruden forgetting that? Did he want to forget another late-season collapse and wound up forgetting about Arnette’s actual games played?
After suffering a thumb injury before Week 1 (which cost valuable time), Arnette would play three weeks before re-injuring the same thumb against the Patriots. He had to sit on the sidelines and miss more valuable time.
No worries, he can learn from the sideline, right? Wrong, during his rehabilitation from the thumb injury, Arnette caught COVID. The very same disease that caused this whole mess. Now not only is he rehabbing a broken thumb he’s trying to get his body free of disease.
By the time he returned in Week 10, it was far too late to try and generate any sort of production during the annual “Raiders blow a winning record” tradition.
Put it all together: Arnette was drafted injured, had no real offseason to get NFL ready, injured his thumb before Week 1, got three weeks to play, re-injured his thumb, caught COVID, and came back in Week 10 with the expectation that he be just as well as if nothing happened? I guess so if you’re Gruden.
But that is the short-sighted thinking that brought you the Khalil Mack trade, the Martavis Bryant trade, and the Lynn Bowden debacle. Arnette can still salvage a rough rookie campaign. It’s the Raiders’ responsibility to actually work hard to get the most out of the roster.
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*Top Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images