The No. 22 is the perfect for Oakland Raiders rookie Gareon Conley. It’s a fitting homage to Mike Haynes who donned the double deuce Silver & Black for seven seasons as he galloped into the Hall of Fame.
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While Conley has a long way to go to even approach Haynes’ status, the former Ohio State Buckeye profiles as a Haynes type. Conley presents the skills of shutdown man-to-man corner.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder has the requisite size and speed (4.44 40-yard dash time) desired in a prototypical corner. Also, he used his length and ability to open eyes as he played with a stellar group of defensive backs at Ohio State. A pure man-to-man shadow corner, Conley is comfortable in press and off coverage.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Raiders starting corner David Amerson said of Conley. “He’s long and he looks like a basketball player kind of. ”
While he sticks like glue to receivers, it’s when the ball is in flight is where we get to see Conley’s capabilities. He turns, finds the ball, and makes a play on it. Let me say that again: He turns, finds the ball, and makes a play on it. He allowed a meager 14 catches for 159 yards and a passer rating of 14.0. That lead the nation. Conley allowed seven of those fourteen catches in the final two games. He also snagged four interceptions and had seven deflections from the 42 throws that came his way. As a result, his draft stock soared.
Like any other first-round talent, there are holes in Conley’s game. He’s not as smooth and impressive in zone coverage. Conley must improve his run support
While he seems like a natural fit for outside corner, Conley worked the slot in Columbus. With teams deploying quick and shifty receivers in the slot, Conley has the coverage skills and speed to become quite the nuisance.
After rape allegations caused falling draft stock, Conley needs a clean bill of health. Shin splits kept him from full participation. In addition, he must catch up for lost time.
“This smile tell you anything,” McKenzie told a throng of media when no charges would be filed on Conley. “I’m excited for Gareon. It’s tough on the young man that has to go through this and I’m excited for Gareon and the Raiders, for the process to work. Now we can move forward.”
In reality, Conley represents a top-10 pick for the Raiders at the bottom of the round. Although his legal situation delayed his progress, time remains to rebound. With that said, a strong preseason should help the rookie find his bearings.