Cornerback Gareon Conley
After outfitting quarterback Derek Carr with a plethora of offensive weapons in free agency, there was a thought that General Manager Reggie McKenzie would go defensive in the first round of the of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Well, he certainly did, selecting Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley No. 24 overall late Thursday evening.
"Really, really talented corner that is capable of playing man or zone," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio of the newest Raider. "He's a football junkie, and he loves to compete. He's been well-respected from the people that I've spoken to personally about him. He's a guy that loves to compete, a good teammate, and a really-quality kid. He's got great length, great speed, really strong workouts through the spring, and then his tape is really good. He's one of those really clean players that we were fortunate enough to get our hands on here late in the first round."
The All-Big Ten second team corner appeared in 42 games during his career as a Buckeye, recording six interceptions and 91 total tackles.
As far as what the rookie defensive back's role will look like come game days, with a pair of veteran cornerback's already on the roster in David Amerson and Sean Smith respectively, Del Rio wasn't willing to speculate, but did say that Conley would be given the same opportunity to come in and compete as all the team's other draft picks.
"I think anybody that we add to the roster this weekend, we'll let him compete, and see what they earn," Del Rio explained. "I wouldn't put a ceiling on him in terms of does he end up as they fourth-best, the third-best, or the second-best, or *the *best corner. That's up to him when he gets here, and the work that he puts in, him understanding our system, and being a productive player. We expect him to come in and compete. We think he's a highly-skilled player, and he's got the potential to become one of our better corners."
With the draft process now in his rearview mirror, Conley – who Del Rio said has the ability to play either in the nickel or outside – is looking forward to getting to work with his new teammates, regardless of the role he fills.
"I'm trying to come in and play early, start if I can and just add value," Conley said. "Nickel, corner, special teams, any way I can to the team, to contribute to the win."
The former Ohio State Buckeye is just the first pick of draft weekend for Reggie McKenzie and Co., and with seven picks in the next two days, the Raiders general manger is hoping that his streak of fortune will continue.
"Hopefully Day 2 will fall the same way," McKenzie said. "We're going to still follow our board. We know our needs, but we will not let a great player slip by just to satisfy a need. We will follow our board, that's for sure. There's a lot of good players left, so we're expecting a good day tomorrow."