Reggie McKenzie made one of the most controversial picks of the first round when he took Ohio State CB Gareon Conley with the 24th overall selection. In terms of his football ability, Conley was a consensus top three player at his position heading into the draft. Off the field however, he was recently accused of raping a woman at Cleveland hotel on April 9, according to ESPN.
He met with police in Cleveland today to give a statement and provide a DNA sample in hopes of clearing his name. The selection of Conley has been heavily debated since the draft, but at this point the debate is fruitless. There’s nothing left for draft pundits and Raiders’ fans to do except wait and see what happens with the investigation.
When all is said and done Reggie McKenzie will either have made a bold pick that provided the Raiders with great value, or he will have made a colossal error that could setback the team. While the Raiders fanbase collectively holds its breathe, lets examine what Conley brings to the team purely from a football perspective:
Weight: 195 lbs
Arm Length: 33"
Hand Size: 9 1/2"
40-yard dash: 4.44
2016: 26 TKL, 8 PBU, 4 INT
2015: 49 TKL, 5 PBU, 2 INT
2014: 16 TKL, 2 PBU, 0 INT
2016: Second-Team All-Big Ten (coaches selection)
There’s a lot to like about Conley’s game. He has above average size and speed and showed the versatility to play in both man and zone schemes while at Ohio State. He has long enough arms to jam NFL receivers at the line, though he needs to refine that part of his game. He has tremendous ball-tracking skills and showed off outstanding hands on some of his INT’s last season.
Unlike his teammate Malik Hooker, Conley didn’t come out of nowhere to climb draft boards this past year. He has been a consistently strong cover man for the past two years, which should shoot down any concerns over potentially being a one-year wonder type player.
Though Conley possesses the desirable traits to be a physical corner, he didn’t always maximize them during his college career. He relied on his athleticism to make plays far too often and avoided using jam-techniques, which is a recipe for disaster against talented NFL quarterbacks and receivers.
He also needs to improve in run support. He was often bullied by opposing blockers in college and missed the occasional easy tackle. Some time in an NFL weight room will do him good and should help round out some of the physicality that his game is missing.
What he brings to the Raiders:
Although Conley had a decorated collegiate career, McKenzie is drafting him for his potential, not his pedigree. He has all the tools to become a top-10 corner in the league, but needs refinement.
Having spent three seasons as a Buckeye, Conley is a proven winner and will bring that mentality to a Raiders secondary that was painfully inconsistent last season. He should be both an immediate and enormous upgrade over D.J. Hayden, with the potential to quickly surpass both Sean Smith and David Amerson atop the depth chart by year two.
Should Conley’s name be cleared in the coming days, it’s entirely possible that the Raiders got one of the draft’s premiere defensive talents with the 24th pick.