The Raiders took Ohio State CB Gareon Conley with the 24th pick of last night NFL Draft, much lower than he was expected to go a week ago, and much higher than many teams were willing to take him. Conley is the subject of a rape investigation in Cleveland, and it’s pretty exhausting that, yet again, things like this are a standard part of the discussion of draft value.
Conley, 21, is named as a suspect in a police report detailing the events at a downtown Cleveland hotel in the early morning of April 9. According to Conley’s accuser, she refused to participate in group sex, so Conley pulled down her pants and sexually assaulted her. According to Conley’s friends, who were in the room, there was no sexual contact at all. Conley has not spoken to police; the woman had a rape kit taken at a hospital.
Given the directly conflicting claims and the potential DNA evidence, it feels like the police investigation will be fairly straightforward—but it’s still ongoing. (The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said Cleveland PD has not yet turned over any information in the case.) I don’t know what happened in that hotel room, nor does anyone aside from the five people who were there, and NFL teams sure as hell don’t know what happened. And yet:
“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process and we trust our research, reports, everything we have on Mr. Conley, and we feel really good about picking Gareon Conley and having him join the Raider team and having him be a great teammate for our players,” Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said.
“The research was done, and it wasn’t just a gut [instinct]; it was based on research, and we are very confident in all the information that we gathered.”
That mention of “due diligence” only serves to remind us that everything we’ve learned about the NFL and its clubs over the last few years indicates that they are very, very bad at investigations, and that “due diligence” can generously be read as “the bare minimum,” or even just “here’s hoping.”
The counterpoint is perhaps that they’ve learned from the Ray Rice fiasco and won’t possibly fuck things up like that going forward. The fact that a polygraph test is being touted as a mark in Conley’s favor would indicate they’ve learned nothing.
Ian Rapoport reported last night that one NFL team asked Conley to submit to a polygraph test, and that he passed. Adam Schefter later said on air that the team was the Ravens. A two-thirds majority of scientists surveyed consider polygraph results to be “pseudoscience”; polygraph testimony is inadmissible in court in most states; a federal law prohibits the vast majority of employers from using polygraph tests on employees or potential employees. Trusting or touting the results of a polygraph test is barely better—and in some cases much worse—than doing nothing at all. But this is all about the dreaded “optics.”
It would be more accurate and less insulting if the Raiders would just acknowledge what’s actually happening here. That they don’t have any idea what actually happened, but are gambling on Conley’s innocence. At some risk, they’re betting that they were able to land a bargain. Other teams refused to take that bet. On some level, that’s every draft in a nutshell. Teams are smart enough now to pretend that their calculations here are any different.