Who knew going into the 2019 season that Ohio State could potentially have three first-round picks at cornerback?
Junior Jeffrey Okudah has already declared for the 2020 NFL draft and is expected to be a top-10 or top-5 player. His redshirt sophomore teammate Shaun Wade recently announced that he is returning to school and has the potential to be a high first-rounder next year.
The third member of that trio? He briefly considered entering last year’s draft despite an up-and-down junior campaign.
It’s a good thing Ohio State’s Damon Arnette returned for his senior year.
The 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback has seen his name rocket up draft boards in recent months after an improved senior year. Once thought to be a Day 2 or 3 prospect, Arnette is now getting consideration for Round 1, draft analysts say.
“… Arnette has a wide range of where he could go, from late in the first round to the third round. However for the NFL, Arnette has the ability to be a No. 1 cornerback and Pro Bowler if he focuses on football and works hard to be the best he can be.”
That’s high praise for a player who was ranked as a Day 3 player by Fanspeak as recently as November.
3way ✌🏽❤️ pic.twitter.com/3H0Vi4Qxfv
— Damon Arnette (@damon_arnette) December 31, 2019
Scouts questioned Arnette’s instincts after he gave up several big plays last season. Still, it wasn’t like he had a poor junior campaign, earning Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Honors, so Arnette briefly considered entering the 2019 draft. Instead, Arnette decided to return, earned his degree and made it a point to improve both on and off the field. Walter Football said Arnette had a “vastly improved senior year.”
“The question was if I was the best player I know I can be,” Arnette told the Dayton Daily News back in August. “Did I leave everything out there, and do I regret everything? I couldn’t check all of those boxes so then I was like all right can you live with that? And then I realized, nah, I can’t. I feel like I’m not doing Buckeye nation and my teammates a service if I left on the note, if I would have left last year.”
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) December 12, 2019
Fanspeak currently ranks Arnette as the No. 79 overall prospect, but that’s largely due to the depth at cornerback and at other positions, says Steve Shoup, creator and co-founder of Fanspeak On the Clock draft simulator.
“Arnette for me projects as a later second- to early third-round prospect, but he’s not that far behind some of the corners considered for the late first round,” Shoup said. “If Arnette tests well at the Combine as expected, teams should have every confidence of him being a quality starter at the NFL level.”
Walter Football projects Arnette to go in the first or second round. And NFL Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network has Arnette landing with Minnesota with the No. 26 overall pick in his latest pre-Senior Bowl mock draft.
“While everyone talks about Jeffrey Okudah when talking about the Ohio State secondary, I think too many are sleeping on Arnette,” Pauline says. “He’s a terrific combination of size, ball skills, and upside.”
And therein lies the reason teams are taking a closer look at Arnette, who finished the season with 35 tackles, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. He can play inside or out, zone or man, and he’s lauded for his physical “… feisty style of play that comes out with him being super competitive,” the Walter Football scouting report says.