Eagles Draft Target – Damon Arnette

Incredibly, the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t taken a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2002. The Eagles must add talent and youth to the secondary this year. This fifth year senior cornerback features excellent size and ball skills. How does Damon Arnette fit with the Philadelphia Eagles? Let’s take a look.

A Look at Damon Arnette’s College Performance

Quite simply, a roller coaster ride. According to Rivals, Damon Arnette was a three-star recruit out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who originally committed to South Carolina. Arnette got his first taste of life in the Big Ten in 2016 and was plagued by inconsistent play and immaturity throughout his early years as a Buckeye. However, you can’t argue this: Arnette was an integral part of 3 straight Big Ten Conference championship teams.

Despite being projected as a late round pick, Damon Arnette’s shockingly seemed ready to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Thanks to the support of Cris Carter and defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, Arnette eventually decided to return to Ohio State and simply saved his best for last. In terms of maturity, Arnette returned to his fifth year as a Buckeye as a brand new football player.

A year of redemption…

Arnette showed much more consistency on the field and finished with 35 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and 8 pass deflections. According to Pro Football Focus, Arnette’s completion percentage allowed improved from 67.4% in 2018 to 45.1% in 2019. In addition, yards allowed decreased from 434 to 279. Arnette’s improved play granted him second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media. His most notable play from last season came vs Indiana after returning an interceptions for 96 yards for a touchdown.

During the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Damon Arnette didn’t exactly improve his draft stock. Arnette measured in at 5 feet, 11 and 5/8 inches and 195 pounds at the NFL Combine. His 4.56 40-yard dash ranked 22nd out of the 28 cornerbacks that participated. Damon Arnette will look to improve that 40-yard dash time during Ohio State’s pro day on March 25th.

A Look at Cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles secondary was routinely murdered last season by the big play. The Eagles were tied for 2nd most in the NFL with 15 plays of 40 yards or more on defense in 2019. To put that in perspective, the worst team in the NFL was the Oakland Raiders with 16. The Eagles have been in the bottom of the league in turnover differential and defensive takeaways recently and finding playmakers in the secondary is now a legit priority.

Jim Schwartz’s defense heavily relies, sometimes too much, on its front four generating pressure. Logic says the Eagles should look to Free Agency to rebuilt their secondary while looking at the draft for wide receivers. All signs point to the Eagles signing Byron Jones from the Dallas Cowboys when NFL Free Agency starts on March 16th.

The Eagles pass defense has ranked towards the bottom of the league since 2016

25th worst, in 2017, 30th worst in 2018 and 22nd in 2019. They were dead last in pass defense halfway through the season last year. As the health of the team improved as the season progressed in 2019, so did the play in the secondary. I think a lot of that had to do with Fletcher Cox being absolutely dominant during the second half of last season, but that’s just me.

And then we get to Free Agency. Personally, don’t count on me as someone who is sold on Byron Jones. It all comes down to cap space for me. Is Byron Jones really worthy of being paid as much money per year as Patrick Peterson, Stephon Gilmore and Josh Norman? No one is denying he would be a massive upgrade at cornerback for the Eagles.

That kind of price tag comes with major expectations and Howie Roseman’s history of bringing in veteran defensive backs isn’t exactly the greatest. Asante, Nnamdi, Byron Maxwell… the list goes on and on. Howie Roseman’s inability to draft a decent cornerback also needs to be noted. Howie Roseman’s failure to draft well at the cornerback position will ultimately force the Eagles to overspend on a cornerback this March.

Damon Arnette’s Fit with the Philadelphia Eagles

Does Jim Schwartz want a guy who can play press coverage? Damon Arnette is at his best when playing aggressive. He’s one of the top physical cornerbacks in the draft. He’s a strong tackler and thrives playing on the line of scrimmage. In addition, Arnette brings a ton of versatility to the table, which grants him the ability to play inside or outside.

Damon Arnette thrives in man coverage due to his excellent body control, quick feet and technique. These traits allow him to always be near the football and stick to his man on the line or at the top of routes. Arnette’s quick feet allows him to anticipate the pass and close in on routes.

The largest question remains: would Jim Schwartz adjust his defense to a guy that can play physical at the line of scrimmage? Schwartz hasn’t exactly put his cornerbacks in position to succeed over the last couple of years. This is definitely an area to watch in 2020.

Areas Damon Arnette Needs to Strengthen

Speed. Damon Arnette is a good athlete, not a great athlete. He possesses quickness, solid acceleration and fluid hips that allows him to thrive on the line of scrimmage. Arnette’s lack of deep speed could hurt him once he puts on that NFL jersey.

Final Thoughts

Damon Arnette doesn’t project as a pure shut down corner in the NFL. He should never be assigned to the better deep threats at wide receiver in the NFL. That’s not a knock on him, because I see him becoming a very strong #2 that can play well in multiple schemes. I predict Arnette to be a backup on day one but to eventually win a role in a starting lineup rather quickly.

I have no doubt that the Eagles will be taking at least one wide receiver in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Due to the insane depth at the position this year, there is also a chance that the Eagles go back-to-back wide receiver in the first two rounds.

Damon Arnette is a really intriguing pick that would be a much needed element to the Philadelphia Eagles: toughness...

I really like this kid. Although the Eagles defense steadily improved throughout 2019, the secondary was way too soft for my liking. Damon Arnette is a guy who can bring toughness and swagger back to the Eagles defense. The fact that this guy played with a cast on his hand while thriving against top notch competition tells me everything I need to know about this guy’s character.

I think Philadelphia Eagles fans will fall in love with his scrappy type of play on the outside or in the slot. Arnette’s physical play would be a welcome addition to the Jim Schwartz defense. I currently have Damon Arnette pegged as a very good pick for the Eagles in the 3rd round.

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