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What Gareon Conley brings to the Raiders

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Let’s set aside the legal questions facing Conley and take a look at what he brings to the field for the Raiders.

In nearly every analysis you read about Conley, the only real questions people have relate to the allegations of sexual assault. Which, mind you, have not yielded any charges at this time. When it comes to what he brings as a player, there are very few doubters.

In the lead-up to the draft, Conley was one of just two players in my Raiders Draft Radar who got a sure first round projection. The other was Haason Reddick and he was gone at pick 13.

When that was put together, Conley was simply judged by his on-field talents. Those talents made him the ideal selection for the Raiders.

Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie spoke on Conley’s skillset following their selection.

“Really talented corner that is capable of playing man or zone,” said Del Rio. “He’s a football junkie. He loves to compete. . . He has great length, great speed.”

“He is hard to get separation from,” McKenzie added. “He can play the deep ball. He can play press. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, and he understands the game.”

He is 6-0, 195 which is good size for a corner and his 33-inch arms gives him all the length you could ask for. His 4.44 40-yard dash and 6.68 3-cone drill are both among the best in this cornerback class.

Conley gave up just 14 catches on 43 targets last season (32.6%) with 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended. But easily the most impressive stat is the 13.6 passer rating of quarterbacks when targeting his receiver. I asked him what that stat means to him.

“I mean that stat really does [mean a lot] because it just means that I’m locking down whoever I go against,” said Conley. “I just go out there and do my best and just try to lock that man down because that’s my job at the end of the day and that’s what helps the team win.”

His ability to play zone makes him ideal for the Cover 3. But it’s his lockdown coverage that Conley hangs his hat on.

Right away, the Raiders would look for him to man the slot/nickel corner role. Neither Sean Smith nor David Amerson can play inside, but Conley is a perfect fit for that role, even though he hadn’t played nickel until last season for the Buckeyes. Prior to that he played the primarily outside.

“I feel comfortable playing [nickel] at a high stage,” said Conley. “There’s a lot of good players in the Big Ten. I feel like I’m confident enough to play it.”

“I’m trying to come in and play early. Start if I can, and just add value to the nickel, corner, special teams, anywhere I can to contribute to the win.”

In total, Conley played 42 snaps in the slot last season. He allowed 5 catches on 11 targets. But even in his limited snaps there, he had two of his four interceptions from the slot.

This means Conley can begin in the nickel role, competing with TJ Carrie, but also with the ability to fill in on the outside and possible take over on the outside as a starter in the future should Smith or Amerson struggle again as they did last season.

The best video scouting report on Conley out there comes from SB Nation’s own Brett Kollman. He talks about, among other things, just how perfect Conley is for what the Raiders like in a cornerback.

He also notes that Conley’s one major issue is his hand use in bump and run. Namely, that he rarely utilizes it.

He also dubs him ‘Con man’ for how he baits quarterbacks into throwing to his receiver. Though his nickname should probably be ditched right about now.