We are headed into the third season of the second Jon Gruden era with the Raiders. After two seasons in Oakland, the Raiders are headed for Las Vegas, and the roster has very much been remade in Gruden's (and general manager Mike Mayock's) vision.
Nowhere have the Raiders had more of a chance to impart that vision than the first round of the draft, where they have made six picks in the past three seasons. Three of those picks came under a decent amount of criticism for being reaches -- meaning the Raiders took the player far earlier than he was expected to come off the board.
This week, Gruden was asked about the team's propensity for reaching in the draft. His response was as follows, per the Mercury News.
Q: Speaking of expectations, you've had first-round picks in three straight years — Kolton Miller, Clelin Ferrell and Damon Arnette — who were considered reaches at their spots by draft experts. What qualities did you see in Arnette that made him a first-round pick?
Gruden: I just look at his tape. I've heard people say, 'he's not a first-round pick on our board.' Well, whose board are we talking about? Then if you're into analytics, according to Profootballfocus.com he had the the best QB rating against him of any corner in the draft. I mean, he's a hell of a player. That's why I like him. He played at Ohio State. He played big in big games. He's an excellent tackler, a confident corner. He's comfortable in bump and run. When we watched him play against good receivers he played good. And he just gives us something we need, something we cherish here. A physical, press confident corner that's not afraid to hit you.
OK let's take this one prong at a time.
First, looking at tape is definitely a good thing. You can't properly evaluate a player without watching him. Second, the philosophy of sticking to your board is also a good one. When people call a pick a reach, it's often based on their own opinion of that player, and the team picking him might have a different opinion. That makes sense.
But Gruden is either mistaken or just not telling the truth when he says that Arnette had the best QB rating against him of any corner in the draft. I pulled up the Pro Football Focus draft guide and while Arnette did have a very good passer rating against (60.6), he was not the best on his own college team (Jeffrey Okudah at 45.3), let alone the best in the class. The Cowboys drafted two different players (Trevon Diggs at 44.5 and Reggie Robinson II at 52.6) who allowed lower passer ratings than Arnette last season. Cameron Dantzler, Jaylon Johnson, Amik Robertson, Lavert Hill, Michael Ojemudia, Lamar Jackson (the one from Nebraska), and Josiah Scott all allowed a lower passer rating than Arnette as well.
Again, Arnette's 60.6 mark was quite good, so it's not as though Gruden is being disingenuous here, but there's no real need to exaggerate and say his mark was the best of any corner in the class when it wasn't.
Also, when people say you reached in three consecutive seasons and the first of those reaches (Miller) has been a disappointment at best and the second (Ferrell) was not the team's best rookie at his own position (Maxx Crosby) during his debut season, it might be a good idea to not scold people for saying you reached again. Just a thought.