Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once all of the “official visits” leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)
#8 - Gareon Conley - Cornerback - Ohio St. - 6-0, 195
Games Watched: Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn St., Indiana
Pros: Ideal height, length (33 inch arms) and speed. Explosive athlete with good acceleration moving forward, particularly when blitzing or planting his foot and driving on the ball. Good quickness and footwork to mirror receivers downfield, very fluid for his size. Looks comfortable in both press and off coverage, although looks more comfortable in press. Seems to be very comfortable in playing outside Cover-3 technique from press position, turning his back to the sideline, and reading the play. Shows a good feel when he does play zone as far as reading where the ball is going. With that said he looks most comfortable in press/man, however he could struggle with big, physical WR’s in NFL. Natural ball skills with good leaping ability, shows the ability to high point the ball. Works hard to fight off blocks but he is a poor tackler overall. Experience lining up at both left and right outside corner, as well as in the slot, and is brought on blitzes off the edge occasionally. Wiry frame that looks like it could hold additional weight. Shows a lot of potential as a blitzer with good timing.
Cons: Lacks physicality in both the run game and in coverage, must add bulk. Doesn’t show much ability to jam in press coverage, needs to get more physical in that regard as he too often allows receivers to get inside of him with free releases. Has serious problems against the run; he isn’t a sure tackler, doesn’t wrap up, struggles to get off blocks despite working hard to do so, and generally lacks physicality. Backpedal looks choppy at times. Gives a bit too much cushion in off coverage from time to time without reacting quick enough to plays in front of him. Gave up a jump-ball touchdown against Penn St., also struggled a bit against Mike Williams of Clemson and in the slot against Michigan. Hips are a bit tight when he isn’t on the Cover-3 press/bail track, and change of direction leaves something to be desired. Doesn’t project as an ideal slot corner in the NFL, although it is a bonus that he could play it in an emergency situation.
Conclusion: For me Conley is right there at the top with Kevin King for that number two spot behind Marshon Lattimore, especially since I get the feeling that he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Like with King I would feel good about taking him at 28, but again I still don’t see a huge gap between the second or third best corner and the fourth, fifth, or even sixth, so I’d prefer a trade down if at all possible before taking one at 28.
With that said, cornerbacks with Conley’s height, length, speed, and versatility as far as playing different coverages, as well as different positions (outside and in the slot), usually don’t make it to the end of the first round, especially when there is so much uncertainty as far as the pecking order at the position. His lack of physicality is very concerning but it doesn’t seem to be due to a lack of “want to”, so it’s something that he should be able to improve on at the next level given his natural physical gifts.
Ultimately he projects as a very good press-man/Cover-3 type of corner, and would be a very nice fit for the Cowboys’ scheme. If he ends up with a star on his helmet in two weeks you’d have to feel good about it.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.