Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
6’1 196 lbs.
Tape Viewed: 2016 vs. Clemson, 2016 vs. Penn State, 2016 vs. Indiana, 2016 vs. Oklahoma, 2016 vs. Wisconsin
Conley is an above average athlete who excels in coverage but benefits from the strong Ohio State defense that surrounds him. He looks comfortable in all game situations, but is a very spotty tackler and isn’t highly involved in run support.
Ohio State liked to use Conley as a blitzer out of various spots on the defense, and this seems to be because of his strong short-area burst, but on tape, he didn’t finish a single one of those blitzes for a sack, despite having many opportunities. He notably bounced right off of Clemson QB DeShaun Watson despite a free release.
Conley is a very confident player, constantly attempting to read the QB’s eyes, and rarely allows large separation. This leads to excellent disruption on the ball at the point of the catch.
There are some red flags with his game, including his technique and tackling. Conley often looks like he’s playing out of control in coverage, which leads to wasted movement that he has to use his athleticism to compensate for, that will burn him at the next level. His tackling is atrocious at times, and this is also due to poor technique, as he doesn’t seem to understand how to square up and use leverage to his advantage. He’s often in the wrong position when attempting tackles as well.
Play Recognition: 8 out of 10
While Conley has some fine moments on tape in this regard, particularly in breaking up a would-be TD on a 5-yard-out to receiver Dede Westbrook against Oklahoma, Conley struggles to diagnose read options and certain complicated route patterns.
Speed: 4 out of 5
While his straight line speed is exposed a few times on tape, especially by strong receiver prospect Mike Williams of Clemson, he more than makes up for it with explosive burst. This is the main reason Ohio State likes to put him in blitzing situations.
Mirroring: 9 out of 10
While he can get loose at times, Conley doesn’t have much trouble sticking to his receivers, and more than once on tape, he ran the receiver’s route better than the receiver.
Pursuit: 5 out of 5
On those plays where Conley gets behind his receiver, be it from a pick play or just beat off the line on a fly, he’s always putting in maximum effort and uses his explosion to close gaps in a hurry.
Man: 13 out of 15
Conley likes to play man coverage, you can tell watching tape he feels he’s the best player on the field and he brings that swagger every down, he’ll need to clean up his footwork and hip swivel at the next level, but he rarely allows separation.
Zone: 13 out of 15
A natural eye-reader, Conley uses his cognitive abilities to his advantage in zone coverage. While his spacing isn’t always perfect, his explosion helps close gaps and disrupt catch attempts. This is on display in the best possible way against Wisconsin, where Conley closed seven yards from the time the QB decided his target on the play to when the ball reached the receiver. Conley jumped the route and made the easy pick.
Press: 4 out of 5
While Conley likes to press, he sometimes misses his bump which leads to issues on downfield throws against faster receivers, this was on display against Mike Williams.
Tackle: 2 out of 5
Far too many missed tackles to garner a positive rating. His technique is often terrible and he’s usually out of position, though he has a few really solid form tackles on tape and shows a willingness to try to bring receivers down in his area.
Ball Skills: 4 out of 5
Conley is often at his best when the ball is in the air. He dropped a couple of interceptions and misused his hands on a few 50-50 balls leading to catches on tape. For the most part, though, he’s very disruptive at the catch point and locates the ball early while it’s still in the air.
Tackle: 2 out of 5
Same story as in pass defense, He flashes correct technique and contain principles, and on some plays just looks like a joke out there.
Play Recognition: 3 out of 5
With the exception, glaring though it is, of read option runs and designed quarterback runs, Conley seems able to read the direction of a running play well and takes nice angles to limit big gains.
Willingness: 3 out of 5
You get the feeling watching Conley sometimes that he wishes the offense wouldn’t run the ball, because he looks so much more comfortable in coverage, but he rarely shies away from the contact and doesn’t mind attempting tackles, even in the open field.
Injury: 9 out of 10
A minor shoulder injury was likely an anomaly. Conley’s health is not an issue going into the draft.
Total Prospect Rating: 79/100
Pro Comparison: T.J. Carrie, CB, Oakland Raiders
Carrie has been an above average cover corner in this league for a couple of years now, really coming on in late 2016 after the injury to fellow Raiders corner D.J. Hayden, but that hasn’t helped his absolute deficiencies in tackling ball carriers. Conley and Carrie share similar frames, similar swagger, and similar technique issues that likely limit their ceiling as pros, at least in run support.