The Oakland Raiders may have a budding superstar at cornerback with the emergence of Gareon Conley in 2018. Initially, the organization took a lot of heat for the selection of Conley with looming sexual assault allegations. However, those proved to be false and the Raiders have since cashed in big on the former Buckeye.
After Conley’s NFL debut against the New York Jets in 2017, I was a believer he would be a potential No. 1 lockdown corner. In that game Conley was on the field for 28 snaps and was only targeted twice, allowing one catch for 8 yards while also making an excellent deflection in coverage.
Fast-forward to last season, and Conley was an absolute force to be reckoned with. Opposing quarterbacks would struggle mightily trying to throw in the vicinity of ‘Conley Island.’ During a three week stretch from weeks 11-13, Conley allowed a total of 15 yards with opposing quarterbacks passer ratings at a mere 8.3 per Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus.
Conley’s success wasn’t only limited to those weeks either, it was a season full of dominance. In a week four matchup hosting the Cleveland Browns, Conley had reservations for six after nabbing his first career interception.
Another bright spot during the season was seeing Conley go toe-to-toe with arguably the best receiver in the game, Antonio Brown. In this contest, Conley was on the field for 59 of a possible 60 defensive snaps, per Michael Gehlken. Brown would end the game with only 5 catches for 35 yards. This video from draft and film analyst Ryan Holmes shows what kind of day it was like for Brown as he attempted to work on Conley.
After a stellar season in 2018, the numbers continued to backup what was being seen on the field from Conley. By seasons end, Conley ranked as the No. 8 cornerback in the league in passer rating allowed (74.8), and also caught the eye of his teammate, quarterback Derek Carr.