“It’s been a dark world that he’s been in, this young man,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Conley during minicamp. “He’s had a terrible injury he had to rehab from, he’s had to change coaches, learn a new system, and it’s been a slow and steady process.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal
“But, man, is he a good player. When he’s feeling good, you can see why we picked him [in the first round].”
Indeed, Conley’s on-field skills were rarely questioned coming out of Ohio State. Pro Football Focus had him giving up a passer rating of just 14.0 when targeted during the Buckeyes’ 2016 season, then the lowest such mark among college corners since PFF began tracking colleges in 2014. He was seen as a top-10 pick, a shutdown cornerback whose game would elevate the pass rush.
But a claim of sexual assault surfaced the week of the draft, and Conley tumbled to the Raiders at No. 24 overall, the fourth cornerback selected, behind Buckeyes teammate Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 overall), Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey (No. 16) and USC’s Adoree’ Jackson (No. 18).
Conley missed the final two minicamp practices last June, and when he was not able to suit up in training camp, it was obvious something was amiss. A shin injury, described as shin splints by general manager Reggie McKenzie early in camp, was laughed off by Conley on social media.
And in 28 pass snaps, Conley flashed. He allowed one catch on two targets, for 8 yards, per PFF. He batted down a deep ball down the left sideline intended for Jermaine Kearse and, along with three tackles, seemed on his way.
A week later, though, in Washington, his — and, really, the entire team’s — season came undone.
Conley, who finished with a PFF grade of 79.6 on 92 total snaps in those two games, reaggravated the shin injury and would not suit up again. Surgery late in the season ensured he would not play until 2018.