Home » Features » Football: Conley considers himself a top cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft

Football: Conley considers himself a top cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft

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Former OSU cornerback Gareon Conley speaks with the media on March 5 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports Director

INDIANAPOLIS — If you ask Gareon Conley, he could be the 2017 NFL Draft’s top cornerback. Although the hype around OSU’s secondary has been centered around Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker, Conley’s combine numbers just might show why teams should not forget how good he is.

Conley came into the 2016-17 season as the top cornerback for Ohio State after Eli Apple left the Buckeyes and was selected in the first round by the New York Giants. While Conley might have been listed as the No. 1 corner, his teammate Marshon Lattimore stole the show, and is now considered to be the best cornerback in this draft.

While Conley is pleased with seeing his teammates receive recognition for his ability, he could easily be considered as the top player at the position himself. He said he feels the wide range of skills he brings — from press-man coverage to playing nickel — separate him from the group.

“I feel like all the corners here obviously have talent, or we wouldn’t be here,” Conley said. “So I set myself apart mentally, with my mental toughness and being able to handle adversity on the field and snapping clear. I feel like that sets me apart.”

Conley’s athleticism has put him on numerous team’s radars, but hasn’t quite put him ahead of his teammates. Sometimes the secondary player’s fans forget from OSU in 2016-17, Conley still feels he is right up there with both Lattimore and Hooker.

“I don’t feel forgotten about,” Conley said. “I embrace everything that I get, and I take advantage of everything that I’ve been given. And I congratulate them for everything they’re getting too.”

Finishing his college career with 91 total tackles, 15 passes defended and six interceptions, Conley has the stats to show he can be productive. However, the biggest questions moving ahead are whether Conley can play tight with NFL-level receivers.

Even with that question mark, Conley possesses the kind of speed that can close gaps quickly.

“I plan on running a 4.4,” he said. “I’m trying to get a 4.3.”

Former Buckeyes Curtis Samuel busted off a 4.31 40-yard dash in his two attempts at the combine, and while Conley might not be that fast, he could potentially get under a 4.4.

The secondary class for this year’s NFL Draft is especially deep, and could cause Conley to slip slightly. After being projected as a potential first-rounder early this season, he has since slipped down draft boards, and could find himself picked in the second round.

Regardless, Conley said he is going to continue to fight.

“I think about it, but I use it as motivation,” he said.

Conley will be hearing his name called early in the draft, but will likely see multiple cornerbacks — including Lattimore — selected before him. And as always, Conley will stand by his fellow Buckeyes, and accept what is placed before him, which might be a product of his time in Columbus.

“All the experiences on and off the field at Ohio State have made me a better man.”

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