The Oakland Raiders selected former Ohio State CB Gareon Conley with the No. 24 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday, answering one of the big questions heading into the draft: whether a sexual assault allegation would knock Conley out of the first round.
With the pick, the 2016 Buckeyes further staked their claim to possessing one of the best secondaries in college football history.
Alongside former S Malik Hooker and CB Marshon Lattimore, each of whom were selected earlier on Thursday night, Conley and his former teammates became the first trio of defensive backs from the same school to be picked in the first round since Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed and Mike Rumph came out of Miami (Fla.) in 2002.
In December, Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who served in the same capacity with the Hurricanes from 1999-2000, said Ohio State’s 2016 secondary possessed the most talent he’s ever coached.
“I’ve never coached a secondary as talented as this, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said. “We had some talented ones in Miami, but this, to me, is the best.”
Conley was a big part of that, recording 4 interceptions in addition to 8 pass breakups. In the Buckeyes’ 17-16 win over Michigan State in the second-to-last game of the regular season, the Massillon, Ohio, native made the signature play of his college career, intercepting Spartans QB Tyler O’Connor late in the fourth quarter to seal the Ohio State victory.
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley clutching into his game-winning INT pic.twitter.com/kQ5cOh9Fad
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) November 19, 2016
Overshadowed by the play of Lattimore and Hooker, Conley earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2016. In the lead-up to the draft, however, his stock soared after he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.
But in the final days before the draft, Conley’s draft status was subject to much debate. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that he was named in a police report accusing him of sexual assault in Cleveland. As a result, he opted not to attend the draft in Philadelphia.
Late Wednesday night, a video contradicting his accuser’s version of the events appeared on TMZ.com. ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter also reported during the draft telecast that Conley had passed a polygraph test administered by the Baltimore Ravens.