Detroit Lions Could Look To Draft Gareon Conley.
Gareon Conley entered this season as the only returning starter in the secondary for Ohio State. After the 2015 season fellow corner Eli Apple and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvus Powell all turned pro. The Buckeyes were counting on Conley to step up his game and lead the secondary. For the most part, he delivered. He played really well in 2016, however, he was outshined by teammates Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker.
Conley played in all of Ohio State’s games during his three-year career. He started every game during his sophomore and junior seasons. In total Conley recorded six interceptions in his time as a Buckeye. Four of those picks came in 2016.
The draft stock of Conley has been on the rise lately. One reason for this is that he had a really solid combine. He measured at 6 foot and weighed in at 195 pounds. Also, he has longer than average arm length for a guy his size which is a plus. He ran the 40-yard dash in a respectable 4.44 seconds. And he looked smooth during the on-field drills, showing good footwork and fluid hips. Another reason for the rise of his draft stock is injuries to fellow cornerback prospects. Washington’s Sidney Jones suffered an Achilles injury during his pro day, and during UCLA’s pro day Fabian Moreau suffered a torn pectoral.
Conley has shown that he is capable of playing any type of coverage. Ohio State mostly asked their corners to play press, but they played off at times as well. Conley looked more comfortable in press than playing off however that could be due to the fact that’s what he did most often. He can play both man and zone well.
Man coverage is what Conley spent most of his time doing in college. Instincts, good footwork, and athleticism allow him to stick to his receiver. His speed will allow him to run with just about every receiver he’ll come across.He’s no slouch playing zone coverage either. He combines very good short area quickness with good timing to close in and make a play on the ball if it’s thrown in his zone. No matter what coverage he’s playing he creates difficult lanes for the quarterback to fit the ball into.
Another thing that Conley has going for him is that he’s versatile. He lined up on the outside on both sides of the field and also played in the slot at times. The more you can do the more valuable to become.
For the most part, Conley does a pretty good job of locating the football in the air. When he locates he does a solid job at trying to take it away or at least making sure the receiver doesn’t catch it. Sometimes he does get himself in trouble when he doesn’t turn his head to find the ball. In those situations, he tends to panic and gets a little too grabby.
The biggest thing that Conley needs to improve is being more physical at the line of scrimmage. Although he usually starts plays lined up in a receiver’s face he rarely jams them to make it harder for them to get into their routes. Allowing a free release makes him vulnerable to routes like quick slants where he doesn’t have time to react to what the receiver is doing. He has good size and really good length so it’s something he should be able to do. Also on the rare times he tries it he usually does a decent job. If he could become a more physical player at the line it would make it even harder for the receiver to have success.
Another, slightly less important problem is tackling. By no means is he a horrible tackler. Usually, he gives an effort which is more than some corners are able to say. But he could do a better job of squaring up the ball carrier and making a good form tackle. Also, he struggles to get off of blocks.
Overall Conley is a prospect with a few flaws but a lot of talent. There’s still room for him to grow as a player. He has good physical tools to work with.
The Lions could use a guy like Conley to pair with star cornerback Darius Slay. He would need time to try to work on getting more physical but since he has the size that is something that he should be able to improve on. Down the road, he could develop into a really solid player for a long time.