James Conner ended his time with Pittsburgh, signing for Arizona, here we take a look at the fantasy impact from a few angles. Conner has been with the Pittsburgh Steelers for four years but has decided to move on. Conner has been frustrating for Steelers and fantasy fans as he has yet to complete a full season in the NFL. Hopefully, for Arizona, he will be able to turn that around. Here we look at the fantasy impact of his move for both sides and the players it will affect.
The impact on James Conner
James Conner was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft. Although the 3rd round might not be fantastic you have to remember how strong the running back class was that year. Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery and Dalvin Cook were a few that went ahead of Conner. An unwritten rule for fantasy is that if a running back is drafted by the end of day two they are worth looking at.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue for Conner has been his inability to stay healthy throughout a season. In his four years at Pittsburgh he has played 14,13,10 and 13 games. Obviously, this has had a big impact on his fantasy value. He has never had a serious injury but he does seem to be prone to picking up niggling ones. Therefore chances are this will continue in Arizona and it is unlikely he will play all 16 games next year.
Despite the injury concerns Conner is still worth picking up for your team. Last year he only played 13 games but he still managed to rush for 721 yards and six touchdowns. Although that doesn’t sound much he still finished as the running back number 25. On top of that the Arizona Cardinals offensive line was ranked 12th last season compared to the Steelers who were 17th. That might not sound much difference but it will help to open up the running lanes for Conner.
Conner is most likely to be a flex option for your team at best. He will get the early-down work and goal-line work in Arizona but Chase Edmonds is still there. This will take away any pass-catching work there could have been for Conner. If you draft Conner then he will be a late-round choice as a flex/bench option. If you want to trade for Conner then you should not be offering more than a late second-round pick.
Verdict: This move doesn’t change much for James Conner. There is more of a run game at Arizona because of Kyler Murray. However, this will mean that Murray will take some of his work away. James Conner was a flex/bench option for Pittsburgh. He is a flex/bench option for Arizona.
The impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers
With Conner now gone the Pittsburgh backfield is looking in desperate need of talent. Currently they have Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Kaylen Ballage and Jaylen Samuels. Not exactly a stunning list of backs. Due to this you have to think that the Steelers will be making a move in the draft for a high end running back. Although they wont go running back in the first round maybe Javonte Williams in the second round would be a good fit.
As for the guys already there only Benny Snell is likely to have any sort of fantasy value. Snell finished as the number 59 running back in 2020 but can be a good bench spot for your team. He is more likely to be the goal line back like he was last year and can have good games occasionally. He rushed for 368 yards and four touchdowns in 2020 and with a potential new back coming in you wouldn’t expect anymore in 2021.
Snell isn’t someone that you would want to spend much on when it comes to drafting or trading. Chances are you wouldn’t trade for Snell unless he was part of a package deal. Now would be the time to do that as his stock is at its highest. If you draft him then you would wait till late on to pick him as he wont start for you very often. However, keep an eye on who the Steelers draft this year. If they take a running back in the first two rounds then he will likely get a huge amount of work from this season.
Verdict: This running back room looks void of quality now and you would expect a new one to come in via the draft. If they draft a running back in the first two rounds then he is the guy to draft or trade for.
The impact on the Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals needed another running back after failing to re-sign Kenyan Drake. Brining in Conner to replace Drake is a riskier decision but a cheaper one for the team. However, very little will change for Arizona when it comes to the game plan. Kliff Kingsbury uses a two running back system and Conner will just take the place of Drake. Drake had 239 rush attempts last year in 15 games compared to Conner having only 169 in 13 games. This might show that Conner might get a bit more work but his body will struggle to cope with it.
One thing that will also remain the same is that Chase Edmonds will be the pass catching running back. Conner will not eat into that workload to much as it is where Edmonds excels. If anything he might get a small increase in work if Conner was to miss time again. With Edmonds being the younger guy and likely to go later in drafts he is the one to take. However, both guys are being drafted around the 7th round which feels quite high for someone without the main workload.
Verdict : Not a lot changes in Arizona but Conner is less reliable than Kenyan Drake was. With that in mind the obvious choice is Chase Edmonds. He is going in the 10th round in dynasty and would make a good flex option for your team.
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Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports