For many, the highlight of Christian Conley’s Georgia career was this 26-minute video:
Not that Conley is bad at football, but most people were more familiar with Conley’s Star Wars fan film than they were with his athletic exploits until Saturday. After last weekend’s Combine, where Conley posted a record-setting broad jump, a 45-inch vertical, a 4.35-second forty, and 18 reps on the bench press, a lot more people are wondering how he looks on a field without a movie camera.
Like Marlon Brown before him, pretty darn good. The 6-3, 205-pound Conley knows how to set up a defender in tight spaces and use his athletic gifts in the red zone. What him begin his three-step release with an inside-out move and break to the corner to set up the defensive back.
As the ball arrives, Conley turns across the face of the trailing defensive back set on defending the corner and makes a leaping adjustment that’s as good as any you’ll see in a college football game. It’s a difficult play performed to perfection and the setup is excellent.
Intermediate routes on the perimeter aren’t bad, either. As the outside left receiver three yards off the line of scrimmage, Conley takes advantage of the corner’s eight-yard cushion by selling the vertical concept on his stem. He then jabs inside on the eighth setp and breaks outside with a speed cut for the catch two yards under the defender. What I like is the intelligence as a ballcarrier after the catch.
Many wide receivers with Conley’s athleticism would tried to stop and cut across the face of the defender because they don’t want to risk leaving the boundary. The often put the first down at risk when they do so, but Conley makes a fluid turn up the sideline. It’s an easier move, but harder to stay in bounds. It’s also a smarter move for the team and coupled with the reduction of the inside arm, he maintains his path up field for a total of 17.
Conley displays a good chop of the cornerback’s arm to break outside the defender during his release and he’s five yards past the opponent 15 yards later and looking in the football.
What I love is that football intelligence not to leave his feet to catch a high target. The hands come up first and the body realizes that the feet don’t need to leave the ground. Conley finishes the play with a stiff arm to the safety up the sideline at the 43 and earns another 17 yards to the 26 before he’s finally pulled down from behind. Conley is a wiry athlete with functional strength and balance.
I also like Conley’s flash of zone smarts as a route runner. He takes an inside release on the play below, feels the inside zone slide over to adapt, and opts to work behind the zone across the middle.
This improvised slant comes wide open, the quarterback hits Conley, and again, the receiver doesn’t leap for a high ball. Plucking the ball with his hands over his head without leaving his feet, he turns inside the linebacker for another 12 yards.
Like many Georgia receivers, Conley can run block. It’s not a perfect display of technique, but it’s functionally sound and common with his tape.
He gets square with the defender, extends his arms, and does just enough to force the corner into a chase angle of the runner after the ballcarrier gets the first down.
Conley’s pacing with his routes is also a positive. This out-and-up is a smooth route. Although it could have been sold better the the initial stem, Conley is convincing enough because of the steady and fast pace of the initial stem before the out-cut. This is what forces the defender to turn his hips and look to the quarterback for the throw.
It’s also what causes the receiver to lose ground. Conley fades to the sideline well after the second break and looks the ball over his shoulder for the score.
I think Conley is more athletically talented than Marlon Brown and Tavarres King–two of the more recent Georgia receivers with NFL ties. His tape is filled with small gems like these. Don’t be surprised if he earns an earlier pick than most anticipated (early Day 3).
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