Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play strength (goal line touchdown ability) and explosiveness (long distance touchdown ability). You can read past editions of the Fantasy Film Projector by clicking the links below.
James Conner models his game after Marshawn Lynch, and it's evident when you watch Conner run. He drags defenders like Lynch did and his 6'1, 233lb could give teams seeking an every-down power back plenty to be excited about.
But despite his size and aggressive run style, there are causes for concern when it comes to his immediate fantasy value, specifically in the measurables department. Per Mockdraftable, the Pittsburgh running back posted a 4.6 40-yard dash time, which ranks in the bottom 24 percent among RBs. While his size is imposing, his strength indicates he still has room to grow as he only turned in 20 bench press reps, ranking him only slightly above the top 50 percent of running backs. For a running back of his stature, you'd like to see closer to 30 reps.
How he can help you in fantasy
Conner's shown potential as a points per reception back. His hand size at 9 7/8 inches tested in the 87th percentile among rookie running backs and he recorded 13 catches in his first four games with Pitt last season. He also possesses good great goal line back potential due to his very good balance, good short area burst, and good pad level.
There's some question marks about his lateral agility and breakaway speed, so he likely won't be a home run hitter type of player that will get you 30 point games. But it's likely he can string together some really solid 20 point efforts if he's utilized as a receiver enough in the offense he finds himself in.
Overall, Conner is unlikely be an immediate impact player in Year 1 but he could be a late-round dynasty addition depending on which team drafts him. He's most suited for a zone-blocking scheme that doesn't utilize a lot of outside runs or a gap scheme. Steer clear of him in redraft leagues for your draft barring injury to a starting RB on the team that drafts him.
Some more background
Conner's a cancer survivor, which in and of itself is incredible and his ability to resurge in 2016 after his cancer diagnosis sidelined him for the majority of the 2015 season was even more incredible. Conner finished with 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did despite entering the season at 60 percent of what he was capable of, according to him.
To put his 2016 season into NFL context, below is a chart of how Conner fared against the top college defenses last season, many of which are composed of several NFL defensive prospects.
|James Conner||Rushing yards/TDs||Opponent/defensive ranking|
|Week 2||117/1||Penn State/37th|
|Week 8||141/3||Virginia Tech/18th|