I started out this three-part series by mentioning two very talented cornerbacks who I felt could be immediate impact players for the San Francisco 49ers. But what if I told you there is a corner I sense will slide in the draft, but has solid college tape and fits the 49ers' scheme perfectly? Did I grab your attention?
Meet Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette.
I believe Arnette will be a late Day 2 pick.
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I always tell people the combine doesn't change your opinion on if you like a prospect or not. It typically is used to let you know where a player will get drafted. Arnette is a very interesting prospect whose measurables leave little to be desired. His 6-foot 195-pound frame is ideal for a cornerback. What's less than ideal are his 30-inch arms, placing him in the 7th percentile for his position. Combine that with a 4.56 40-yard dash which put his him right around 50 percentile for his position. Speed oftentimes determines how high or low you will take a player. It's a threshold that can be used to determine a player's upside. Arnette elected to do the rest of his agility testing at his pro day, but unfortunately for him and many others, due to this pandemic, pro days have been canceled.
The last thing that doesn't work in his favor is that he spent five years at Ohio State and will turn 24 years old as a rookie.
Here's why I don't care about any of that. The kid can play some football.
Arnette played across from Jeffrey Okudah who is projected to be a top-five pick in this upcoming draft, possibly overshadowing Arnette's play. The first thing that jumped out to me was the confidence and grit he played with. Whether he was defending a receiver downfield or coming up to make a tackle in the run game, Arnette did both and let guys hear about it. Ohio State played a defense similar to what the 49ers do. A lot of single-high man and press bail Cover 3. While watching Arnette play, his 40 time or short arms did not seem to be an issue. The two areas where I feel Arnette can improve were with his eye discipline and sense of urgency to close on routes from off coverage.
In my opinion, the latter is an issue that starts with the former. If Arnette drives the receiver first out of his break instead of eyeing down the quarterback while trying to break, he would close much more aggressively.
If the 49ers trade down to stock up on mid-round picks and Damon Arnette starts to slide, it would be wise to draft a cornerback like Arnette who would not be rushed on the field with corners like Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon returning. This would be the perfect time for the 49ers to add a potential long-term piece to their secondary.
For more on Damon Arnette, check out my Twitter thread that will show exactly who he is.
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