The Oakland Raiders aren’t expected to move to Las Vegas until the 2020 season but showed during Thursday night’s NFL Draft that they already aren’t afraid to engage in a little gambling.
The Raiders selected Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley with the 24th pick. Conley was considered a likely top 10 selection but saw his stock drop after it was revealed that he was being investigated by Cleveland police for a rape accusation that allegedly took place April 9 at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland.
Conley has denied the allegation and has not been charged or arrested yet in connection to the alleged incident. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Thursday that Conley took and passed a polygraph test given by a registered administrator at the behest of another team in the first round looking to draft him.
“It’s a serious allegation and must be treated seriously,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told NFL.com. “Those are things we obviously want our players to avoid. We have programs in place but let’s see how the facts come out.”
Conley said in a statement released by his agents earlier this week that the “allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once in a lifetime experience for me and my family.”
If the legal issues are cleared up, the Raiders will end up with one of the top defensive backs from the draft. However, if Conley is eventually charged, GM Reggie McKenzie will have to answer for the selection.
“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process,” McKenzie said. “It wasn’t just a gut (feeling). The research was done, and we feel very confident in all the information that we gathered.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Conley, who has been timed at 4.45 in the forty, had 26 tackles and four interceptions while earning second team all-Big Ten honors last season.
“It’s been real emotional, but I got through it,” Conley said. “I just kept my faith strong and just kept listening to my mom, my agent, my support. Just kept my head on tight. Just had faith.”
Conley was asked how he felt when he learned the Raiders were going to select him Thursday night.
“It made it 10 times more special,” he said. “Just having that doubt in my mind, just not knowing. Just having faith and having doubt, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When it came, it shocked me. It felt unreal, honestly. It still feels unreal.”
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said he will look to play Conley at both nickel and corner.
“Really, really talented corner that is capable of playing man or zone,” Del Rio said. “He’s a football junkie, and he loves to compete. He’s been well-respected from the people that I’ve spoken to personally about him. He’s a guy that loves to compete, a good teammate, and a really quality kid.”
The draft continues Friday night at 4 p.m. PT with the second and third rounds and concludes Saturday with the final four rounds.