Name: Gareon Conley
School: Ohio State
Position fit: Outside cornerback
Stats to know: Allowed just 14 receptions for 159 yards, and an NFL passer rating of 14.0, best in the nation, on throws into his coverage in 2016.
What he does best:
- At 6-feet and 195 pounds, he has the size to be viewed as a prototypical cornerback in the NFL. Plays long and knows how to use his frame.
- At his best in man coverage. Comfortable getting up close and personal with receivers and willing to press at the line of scrimmage.
- His 4.44 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine might have been overlooked due to some of the more eye-popping performances, but he has more than enough speed to track receivers downfield.
- Shows good agility to turn with receivers and keep them close.
- Closes quickly on the ball in front of him when playing off coverage
- Simply put, he didn't allow much in coverage at all in 2016. Seven of the 14 receptions he allowed came in the final two games of the year, and his yards per coverage snap average of 0.51 was the best in this draft class among cornerbacks to play at least 160 coverage snaps.
- Has good ball skills, with four interceptions and seven pass breakups from just 42 passes thrown into his coverage in 2016.
- One-year wonder, or player who has continued to improve in college? Statistically this season was outstanding for Conley, but with NFL passer rating allowed totals of 71.6 in 2015 and 129.2 in 2014, was this year an outlier?
- Can get lost in zone coverage. Not as impressive as he is in man.
- Could get even better at looking for the football. Had plays in 2016 where a play was there to be made on the ball if he had shown a little more awareness.
- Has never impressed as a run defender in college. Needs to work on being more physical there, and also improve the angles he takes to the ball carrier.
- Still has room to grow as a tackler. Missed a tackle once every 5.6 attempted in 2016.
Player comparison: Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos
Like his fellow Ohio State alum, Conley needs to get better as a tackler. Roby has already missed 34 tackles in his first three years in the league, and that's where Conley will be if he doesn't step it up. However, Roby has flashed coverage skills too, and Conley can at least match that in the NFL.
Bottom line: While Conley isn't the dominant cornerback that Buckeye teammate Marshon Lattimore is, he has still shown serious flashes of skill in his time at Ohio State. He has continued to improve throughout his college career, but the question remains whether his eye-popping stats this year were more of an outlier or part of a trend. His tackling needs to improve at the next level or we're going to see too many big plays as a result of him not wrapping up properly, but his coverage skills make him an intriguing option at cornerback in a talented draft class.