Bust. Gareon Conley isn’t one.
To assert the Oakland Raiders first-round pick as a bust at this juncture of his career is supremely asinine.
Is it disheartening the No. 24 overall pick’s season after playing in two games (98 total snaps on defense)? Yes, maddeningly so.
A shin injury — its severity undisclosed by the Raiders — kept Conley on the shelf since Week 3. He had an impressive pass deflection against the New York Jets and got snaps against the Washington Redskins to finish with seven total tackles and a pass defended.
The Raiders held on to hope for quite some time — Conley hadn’t practiced since Oct. 6 — before the decision to shut him down came from general manager Reggie McKenzie.
“It’s just people’s bodies are different, when you have those type injuries, you wait and see if it can heal and feel better and good enough to play,” McKenzie said. “(Conley) was feeling better, then he had a setback … if he can’t go, then he can’t go and we’re going to have to move on. But we’re going to give him every opportunity to see if he can do it.”
Why did Oakland hold out as long as it did? Quite simple really, Conley was the Raiders best cover man. In order for him to continue evolving as a shadow corner, Conley must be given as many snaps as he can handle. But alas, the injury wouldn’t allow it.
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But to declare Conley as a wasted pick, do not waste your breath on such infinitesimal drivel.
Point to the sexual assault allegations — proven to have no basis and dismissed — all you want. It may have forced teams to alter their boards, but it didn’t diminish the prospect Conley was coming out of DB U. (And yes, Ohio State is the DB University.) A projected top-10 draft pick, Conley flashed and impressed more than highly touted bookend corner Marshon Lattimore (taken No. 11 overall by the New Orleans Saints) on tape last season.
Oh, and Conley had no medical red flags coming out of Ohio State. So don’t file this in the “Another poor pick by McKenzie!” category. Injuries like this, no matter how long teams hold out hope and let them linger, happen in the NFL.
Chew on this: An impressive five Buckeyes were taken in the first 54 picks of the 2017 NFL draft — Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Conley, Curtis Samuel and Raekwon McMillan — and of them, only one remains active: Lattimore. The lone Buckeye that did have medical flags coming out of college.
The “B-word” is thrown around way too much. Remember what I said above? Not yet? If Conley is unable to recover from the shin ailment and remains sideline or does play and is ineffective in Year 3, then by all means, spit that B-word like there’s no tomorrow. Until then, ensure the seat belt is buckled and keep your arms in the car. This rollercoaster has many peaks and valleys, many highs and lows.
If David Amerson can return to the lineup (missed the win against the Miami Dolphins) the Raiders should have enough bodies at CB heading into Sunday’s clash in Mexico City. Amerson would join TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith as they all attempt to stop — or marginally disrupt — the vaunted New England Patriots offense.
Another option is to ink another cornerback, whether it’s Breon Borders from the practice squad or one from free agency. A Borders promotion seems like the best route. An in-house candidate already immersed in the Raiders scheme and philosophy.
I like Borders’ instinct as a read-react corner, but it’s his lack of deep speed that is concerning.
If Oakland is to topple the New England Patriots this Sunday in Mexico City, the Raiders need the wide receivers to be sure-handed. Dropsies, be damned! Derek Carr is completing 65.2 percent of his passes, yet imagine how much better that percentage would be if his wideouts held on to the pigskin?
Denver Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders eviscerated the Patriots secondary to the tune of 137 yards on six catches (five for 114 in the first half). Amari Cooper has comparable, if not better, speed and route running than Sanders and could be in for a similar day — if he hangs on to the ball. He currently is tagged with a league-leading 10 drops.