Heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills are in the market for a developmental wide receiver. With the acquisition of Percy Harvin in free agency, the re-signing of Marcus Easley and the retention of Chris Hogan via the exclusive-rights tag, the top 4 receiver spots (and top special teamer spot) are locked up. If there is to be a sixth receiver retained, for depth purposes they must be able to step into a special teams’ role as much as being an effective 3rd or 4th option in the offense.
Enter Chris Conley. The 6’2 receiver from the University of Georgia for his career as a Bulldog posted 117 receptions for 1,938 yard and 20 touchdowns. Operating out of Mark Richt’s run-based pro style offense, Conley didn’t get as many looks as some of his more famous SEC brethren in terms of the passing game. When his number was called however, he was effective using his height and taking advantage of his 33 3/4 inch long arms to high-point the ball and snatch it out of the air. Conley performed well at the combine, coming in with a 4.35 40, 19 reps on the bench and looking good during drills.
Despite having limited opportunities as a receiver, Conley is a pretty good route runner. Conley can operate outside or in the slot, which is again gives him job security as a depth/developmental wideout in an offense. If you’re going up against a strong press game on defense, he may struggle a bit getting vertical; however he can loosen that up in a hurry underneath:
And if he is allowed to work the defender into a double move, he has enough of a second gear to get open suddenly.
Conley is similar to Harvin, Woods and Watkins in that he tries to be the hitter not the one hit after the catch:
Those sort of quick passes are going to be staples of the offense with starters like Sammy Watkins, Harvin and Robert Woods, so having Conley in the wings would allow Greg Roman to leave that in the playbook should one of them need a blow.
In the run game, I’d call Conley a nuisance blocker. His long arms are helpful in stopping / locking up the defender, but he isn’t an Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald in terms of premier run blocking receivers.
Conley is a hands catcher that isn’t looking to get alligator arms if he sees a defender incoming. If he doesn’t run through the defender, Conley can run past them:
Conley is also effective at running corner or fade routes, particularly because he understands how to box out a defender and use those hands (or hand in this case) at the last second to prevent tipping them off.
How He Fits the Bills:
Conley would be a good player to challenge Goodwin for that final (if they keep 6) receiver spot, as well as a willing contributor to special teams. His outside interests are a nice story and some front offices may as a result see him as not “all in” to football. Personally, making a Star Wars fanfic movie with your coach’s blessing would be a positive to me and I hope that is also the case in Buffalo. Because of his size, ability and projection going forward as a pro, I see Conley as a 3rd to 5th round pick.