When news broke Monday night that top cornerback prospect Gareon Conley had been accused of raping a woman in Cleveland earlier this month, some speculated he might go undrafted. Even hours before the draft began Thursday, there were reports that Conley was expected to be picked, but probably not until about the third round.
But the Raiders surprised everyone by taking the former Ohio State star with the 24th overall pick despite the questions swirling around him, and they insisted afterward that they had confidence in their process.
“Bottom line, we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were,” said general manager Reggie McKenzie, via USA Today Sports.
According to a Cleveland police report, an unidentified 23-year-old woman said Conley asked her up to a suite at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland to have sex, but she said she agreed only to go to the room to watch others have sex. She told police Conley raped her in the suite's bathroom and then kicked her out of the suite.
Conley has denied the allegation and his attorney indicated he has witness and video evidence that will disprove the accuser's claims. Police have not arrested or charged the 21-year-old in connection with the alleged incident, and he is expected to meet with them Monday.
Conley and his representatives spent the days leading up to the draft in a non-stop effort to convince potential NFL suitors that the player did nothing wrong.
While Conley told reporters on a conference call Thursday (via the San Francisco Chronicle) that he “could have made a way better decision," he maintained his innocence and thanked the team for the opportunity.
“I appreciate the Raiders having faith in me not only as a player but as a person,” Conley said. “I am honored to be a part of this organization.”