Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley has been projected as a first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
While Conley might not possess the upside of former teammates Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, he has a lot more playing time under his belt and boasts impressive coverage skills of his own.
Gareon Conley in 2017 NFL Draft
1. He is facing accusations of sexual assault
TMZ Sports reported the Tuesday before the NFL Draft that Conley was accused of sexual assault.
From the report: “According to a police report filed in Cleveland, a 23-year-old white female told police Conley violated her in a hotel suite bathroom at a Westin hotel on April 9.”
No charges have been filed against him yet, and he has denied the allegations, per TMZ.
2. He is one of the bigger risers in this draft
Before the NFL Scouting Combine, there were very few NFL draft analysts that had Conley off the board in their mocks in the first round. Following an impressive performance in Indianapolis, however, Conley has continued to gain steam and has solidified himself as a first-day pick.
Scouts like how there are almost no holes in the cover man’s game. Conley has the size, quickness, versatility and ball skills to hold his own in the pros.
Could he even hurdle former teammate Lattimore on draft night? Lattimore long has been viewed as the top corner in his class, but with questions about his durability and experience, there’s certainly a chance Conley could hear his name called before any other cornerback on Thursday.
3. He improved dramatically each year in college
After redshirting the 2013 season, Conley struggled in coverage as a freshman. No game demonstrated that more than against Michigan State in 2014, when he replaced an injured Eli Apple in the starting lineup. Conley gave up two big plays on the Spartans’ opening drive, and Apple was forced back into the game.
Conley won a starting cornerback job as a sophomore, and he has started in all 26 games the last two seasons. Yet, in the 2016 season, he truly dominated and was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the coaches.
Per Pro Football Focus, Conley allowed a 129.2 passer rating on throws into his coverage in 2014, 71.6 in 2015 and a nation-best 14.0 in 2016. Not only was he strong along the outside, he covered very well in the slot, too, after being switched there midseason. He held his own on the inside, even against top-ranked wideouts such as Clemson’s Mike Williams, where he showed great anticipation and his ability to undercut routes.
Gareon Conley could bring this kind of playmaking ability to the Eagles secondary. pic.twitter.com/0sjnMIcswE
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) March 22, 2017
4. He was originally committed to Michigan
So it was extra sweet for Urban Meyer to convince the 4-star prospect to become a Buckeye. Conley was a Michigan commit for eight months, but the Massillon (Ohio) Washington product changed his mind after Ohio State’s undefeated 2012 season.
Conley was the first Michigan commit that Meyer flipped to Ohio State during his tenure in Columbus. Not a bad way to stick it to your rivals.
5. He was the alpha male in the secondary
As a redshirt junior, he was tapped as one of Ohio State’s captains before the 2016 season and was the only member of the secondary who was bestowed the honor. And it was a duty he didn’t take lightly.
“In our room, he’s clearly the leader, he’s clearly in charge and he’s exceedingly talented,” Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told the athletic department’s website this past October. “But he does not allow that talent to keep him from working hard and helping his teammates reach their fullest potential.”
In a young secondary featuring multiple potential first-round picks, Conley was the most experienced and flourished taking over the leadership role in the group.