ALAMEDA -- The Raiders used the No. 24 overall pick on Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. This wasn’t a second-round flier or a late-round gamble.
That’s a first-round pick. Rolling the dice this early is ill advised. The Raiders don't believe they did with a selection accompanied by a $5.78 million signing bonus, $10.5 million in total money and a valuable fifth-year option to keep a player in town.
They wouldn’t risk such an asset on someone in serious legal trouble. The Raiders did significant research on Conley, who was accused of rape earlier this week, before making a selection. Results gave the Raiders confidence in their choice.
Conley has not been arrested or charged over an allegation that stems from an April 9 interaction in a Cleveland hotel.
Conley said the accusations are “completely false,” in a statement released by his agent. He claims to have witnesses and video evidence that he didn’t do anything illegal during an exchange where group sex was suggested. He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police about the allegation and an investigation into it on Monday.
Conley said he took and passed polygraph test prior to the draft, hoping to avoid a free fall into the draft’s later rounds.
The Raiders clearly believe him. They wouldn’t have used such a high pick on the Ohio State cornerback otherwise. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the team thoroughly investigated the matter, and felt comfortable using a high pick on someone who sat alone atop their draft board at No. 24 overall.
“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process,” McKenzie said Thursday night, after making the Conley pick. “We trust our research, reports, everything that we have on Mr. Conley. We feel really good about picking Gareon Conley and having him join the Raiders team and having him be a great teammate for our players.”
McKenzie didn’t detail the Raiders research efforts, but didn’t seem concerned about this off-field issue.
“I don’t want to get into all the details,” McKenzie said, “but the bottom line is that we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were.”
McKenzie said he spoke with owner Mark Davis about Conley, as he does most first-round options.
The Raiders were impressed by Conley’s workouts and his game tape. The rape accusation obviously gave the NFL pause regarding his draft status, and he slipped somewhat in the first round.
The Raiders are confident following an internal investigation that his legal troubles will pass without incident.
“The research was done,” McKenzie said. "It wasn’t just a gut (feeling). It was based on research, and we’re very confident in all the information that we got.”
The Raiders believe Conley will be a good NFL player, with the traits required to excel in silver and black.
"He’s the type of corner you look for," McKenzie said. "It’s hard to get separation from him. He can play the deep ball. He can press. He’s big and strong and fast. And he understands the game. Watching his tape and being around him in interviews, we had no question about his skill set and ability to play the game."