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Gareon Conley Selected 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders

Gareon Conley

NFL

Ohio State Cornerback Gareon Conley selected by the Raiders

Gareon Conley is officially one of the 22 invitees of the 2017 NFL Draft. Standing 6’0 and weighing just under 200 pounds, the 21 year old from Ohio State is flying up NFL Draft boards. At the beginning of the process, Conley was thought to be behind teammate Marshon Lattimore and Washington’s Sidney Jones. Due to Jones tearing his Achilles tendon at his pro day, and teams concerned with Lattimore’s health, Conley could find himself as the top cornerback in the 2017 NFL draft class.

Career at Ohio State:

Conley was thrown into the fire at Ohio State as a Redshirt Freshman, filling in for the injured Eli Apple. He was torched that day, securing Eli Apple his job. However, the next two years at Ohio State were a different story. He has started every game over that span, earning an honorable mention for the All Big-10 team in 2015. In 2016, he made the All Big-10 second team. He also proved that he can play any corner position, left side, right side, and slot. He was viewed as the second corner, playing across from Marshon Lattimore. However, in 2016 Conley had 4 interceptions and 8 pass break-ups. The former high school receiver also only allowed 32.6 percent of balls thrown his way to be caught. Worried about the big play? He only allowed 2 catches over 20 yards in the 2016 season. One was a jump-ball reception by Penn State receiver and future NFL draft pick, Chris Godwin. The other was a tipped pass thrown towards him in the Indiana game, caught by a receiver down field.

Strengths

Conley has the size that defensive coaches are looking for in today’s NFL. Having 33 inch arms, 37 inch vertical, and 4.4 speed allows Conley to run with the fast receivers, jump with the taller receivers, and break up nearly any pass in his vicinity. He can play in man and zone coverage schemes. Opposing quarterback’s had a passer rating of 13.0 when throwing in Conley’s direction. Simply put, they would have been better off throwing the ball in the dirt, than throwing at Conley. Conley’s most impressive traits are his ability to shield a receiver towards the side line, getting his head turned around, and making a play on the ball. Conley reads receivers well on simple routes. He also can bait a quarterback into making a bad decision in zone coverage.

Weaknesses:

Like any other prospect, Conley is not perfect. He has two things he can improve on, in my opinion: his tackling is poor and he does not use his hands enough in press coverage. While he will play right in a receiver’s face, he does not use his hands in press, in most cases. He uses his athletic ability to compensate for his poor technique and that just will not work at the NFL level. The catch by Darboh below is a prime example. If Conley uses his hands on Darboh, he would be able to feel out the route and perhaps make a play on a well-thrown ball. He has 33 inch arms. Jalen Ramsey has 33 inch arms and his technique is what you would like to see from Conley. Along with his poor hand technique, Conley is not a great tackler, though, he is a willing tackler. He often misses tackles and reminds me of another former Buckeye in the NFL, Bradley Roby. Roby has made plays on defense, but has missed over 30 tackles since he has been in the league.

 

Conclusion:

Conley was thought to be possibly the safest pick at the cornerback position in this draft. Recently, his name has been brought up in a sexual assault allegation. This will certainly hurt his draft stock and teams are digging very deep to get every detail that they can. On the field, he is not as flashy as his counterpart, Marshon Lattimore, but he also does not have the injury bug that comes with Lattimore. He has the ball skills coaches seek at corner. He also has the ability to play all over the place in the back of a defense. I believe with good coaching at the NFL level, Gareon Conley will be the best cornerback taken in the 2017 NFL draft.