By Greg Gabriel--
Editor's note: You can read Gabriel's other scouting reports on highly regarded NFL Draft prospects by clicking here.
(CBS) If there's one certainty regarding the Bears entering the NFL Draft in April, it's that they'll draft a cornerback somewhere. And the good news on that front is that this might be the deepest draft in years as far as quality talent at the position.
In most years, the average number of cornerbacks selected in the first three rounds is around 12 to 15. Because of the value of the position, it's not uncommon to see some cornerbacks get drafted sooner than their talent level dictates. That won't be the case in 2017, as there are easily 15 cornerbacks with grades that would get them drafted in those rounds. It actually wouldn't be surprising to see as many as five get selected in the first round.
One such player who has received a lot of attention from scouts, coaches and decision-makers in recent weeks is Ohio State's Gareon Conley. Early on in the process, it was thought that Conley may be a late first-round pick, but now he looks like he could be a probable top-10 or top-15 selection. While Conley may not be in play for the Chicago Bears at No. 3 overall, he certainly would be if the Bears decide to move down in the first round.
Conley is a third-year junior and a two-year starter for Ohio State. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Conley has good size for the position as well as excellent length (33-inch arms). While he ran well (4.45 in the 40-yard dash), he wasn't quite as fast as teammate and fellow cornerback Marshon Lattimore. In the agility drills, Conley actually outperformed his highly rated teammate. Conley's 6.68 time in the three-cone drill was the best for his position group.
At last week's Ohio State pro day, there were many scouts and coaches who came away feeling Conley had the superior workout by looking more fluid and agile. He has a quick, low pedal and a smooth turn to go along with the ability to transition without any hesitation.
On tape, Conley looks the way he tested, showing speed and explosiveness. He's an excellent man-cover player and does quite well in zone also. He can play a physical game, support the run and tackle. His ball skills are excellent, as he had four interceptions and eight passes broken up in 2016.
Where Conley needs work is in developing his upper-body strength. He only did 10 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, and that shows on the field at times as some bigger running backs have been able through his tackles.
Overall, Conley has the skill set to come in and start right away as a rookie. It wouldn't surprise me if he's a club's No. 1 cornerback by his second year. As I mentioned, No. 3 overall may be a bit high for Conley, but he has excellent value just a few slots lower.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.
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