Conner Vernon was born in Miami, Florida, and attended high school at Miami (FL) Gulliver Preparatory. Vernon’s senior year, he caught 60 passes for 1,163 yards and 11 touchdowns. This earned him first team all-state honors, and he also led the Miami area in receiving yards in 2008. He helped Gulliver to a 12-2 record and a berth in the Florida 2A state title game. Considered a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, he accepted a scholarship offer from Duke University over offers from Vanderbilt, Troy and Wake Forest.
At Duke University, Vernon excelled as a pass catcher. He earned Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors in 2010, 2011, and 2012, for his average receptions and receiving yards. Over the course of his college career, Vernon caught 283 passes for 3,749 yards, and 21 touchdowns. He holds many ACC records, including, Career Pass Receptions and Career Receiving Yardage.
He earned a spot on the 2013 Senior Bowl South Team, coached by the Oakland Raiders Staff. There, he caught passes from Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson. Funny how things work out, Tyler Wilson was drafted by the Oakland Raiders, and Conner Vernon arrived in Oakland as an Undrafted Free Agent (UFA).
During the second week of Organized Team Activities (OTA’s), Vernon caught the eye of Head Coach Dennis Allen. Allen was asked who he thought was a standout so far, and he stated, “If I had to pick one, I would say that Conner (Vernon) has been outstanding.”
ESPN Scouts Inc., and NFL.com, rated Vernon as having quick feet to shake defenders, and he wastes little time in his movement. Furthermore, they said he knows how to get open, can eat up cushion, he has good field awareness, and good catch ability along the sideline. His weaknesses were graded as having a lack of speed and great quickness to break away from defenders, and he lacked the strength to break away from jamming defenders off the line of scrimmage.
Vernon understands his capabilities. He knows that he will be competing with Jacoby Ford for a starting slot receiver position. With Ford’s injury prone body, that could be sooner than later. First and foremost, he needs to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. Anything can happen in training camp.
I like this receiver. He gives us another slot receiver option with some added height over Ford. He has good hands and can find open space. Whoever our quarterback will be, he needs to have options that get open. Vernon can do just that. Not only was his ability to get open on display in college, but he has also displayed it in OTA’s.
I don’t pretend to know the future, but Vernon is somebody I see having success in the NFL. With comparisons to Eric Decker and Wes Welker, it’s easy to assume that he will be a slot receiver. You never know though, he could wind up as the #2 spot if he continues to display his abilities he had in college.
What I know is, receivers who continue to learn from veteran quarterbacks and veteran receivers usually wind up with long fruitful careers. Over the past two years, Vernon has been working out in the off-season with Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Wes Welker, and Victor Cruz, at a camp hosted by the Manning’s. To me, that is a great combination of football knowledge to learn from. Let’s hope the skills he gained there can be produced on the field in Oakland.