Oakland Raiders Still Waiting To Learn The Fate Of Their First Round Pick

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Gareon Conley
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Gareon Conley /

The Oakland Raiders rolled the dice in a big way when they made Gareon Conley their first round pick in this year’s draft – and two months later, they still remain in limbo as to his fate.

Two months after the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders are still waiting to hear whether or not their first round pick is going to be on the field, in a courtroom, or perhaps even in prison this coming season.

When GM Reggie McKenzie handed in his draft card and made Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley the twenty-fourth overall pick, he did so knowing that the rookie was facing serious criminal allegations – a rape charge stemming from an incident in a Cleveland hotel prior to the Draft.

That McKenzie would make Conley his first round pick certainly raised some eyebrows around the league, given his penchant for building a team around guys without character issues.

At the time, as the waves of controversy washed over him, McKenzie made it known that he went into making the pick with his eyes wide open.

"“The research was done. It wasn’t just a gut [feeling]. It was based on research, and we are very confident in all the information we got. I don’t want to get into all the details about who we talked to. The bottom line is, we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were. We feel really good about the pick and where it’s going.”"

As of this writing, that pick is going nowhere. Two months after making the controversial selection, the Raiders – not even Conley’s attorney – has heard word one about whether or not the rookie cornerback is going to be charged.

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In aninterview with another outlet, Conley’s attorney, Kevin Spellacy, said that, “Nothing has happened.”

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to interpret how to take the lengthy silence from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. There are a dozen ways you can interpret it to mean good news for Conley and the Raiders. And there are just as many ways to interpret it to mean something bad.

The only thing that seems certain is that the longer this drags on, the darker the cloud hanging over Conley’s head is going to be. By all accounts, he showed out very well during OTA’s and has the coaching staff excited to get him into the rotation with the hope that he helps shore up what was a very leaky secondary in 2016.

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That, of course, is all in flux pending the outcome of his legal case. Although McKenzie was “comfortable” with the selection of Conley, that’s not nearly the same thing as the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office being “comfortable” with letting him off scot-free if they determine there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial.

And what happens if Conley is ultimately charged with rape?

If that happens, it seems highly unlikely he’ll see the field for the Raiders in 2017. In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal – followed by high profile issues with Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy – it’s unlikely the league is going to allow Conley to suit up pending the resolution of his legal matters.

Per PFT:

"“The situation will become extremely murky for the Raiders if Conley is charged. The league can’t discipline him for pre-draft misconduct, but how can the NFL allow a person charged with felony rape to show up for work? The image-obsessed league office will twist arms to get Conley off the field, similar to what the league did in 2014 after the Ray Rice debacle led to extended leaves of absence with pay for Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson while both were facing unresolved criminal charges.”"

As of this writing, the Raiders still have not signed Conley to his rookie deal – which is hardly a coincidence. If the cannot play, they have no intention of paying him. It seems likely that they would continue to hold on to his rights until the resolution of his court case, or the next NFL Draft – whichever comes first.

The situation is volatile, to say the least. But McKenzie made the pick knowing exactly what he was getting into. If this all blows up in his face and Oakland cannot field their first round pick, McKenzie has nobody but himself to blame.

The situation is in complete flux and the longer it draws out, the more ominous the silence from Cuyahoga County seems to be.