Arizona RB James Conner had an electric season in 2021, tallying 18 total touchdowns and 1,127 yards from scrimmage. He led the league in total touchdowns for a healthy portion of the season, but finished third after late-season surges by both Austin Ekeler and Jonathan Taylor.
It was his first year in the desert after spending his first four seasons in Pittsburgh. There, he showed flashes of greatness, looking like the perfect successor to Le’Veon Bell, especially in 2018 when he earned a Pro Bowl selection with 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. But injuries would slow him down significantly in 2019 and 2020, resulting in the Steelers letting him walk in free agency.
On April 13, 2021, Conner signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The plan was for him to see a lighter workload in an effort to preserve him for as long as they could, with Chase Edmonds being the starting back insead. But Edmonds battled injuries all year long, which opened the door for Conner to prove he still had plenty in the tank, at least in certain schemes and formations, specifically out of the shotgun. In that formation he had a 84.7% carry rate.
From a fantasy perspective, Conner’s 221 points ranked #5 among running backs and his 1.07 fantasy points per opportunity ranked #4. Aside from that, his numbers are fairly pedestrian, but the scoring still is significant. He was absolutely lethal in the red zone.
Health & Draft Analysis – Conner likely won’t maintain his 2021 numbers in 2022. That’s not to say he won’t be productive, but he shouldn’t be your RB1. Even if he is the starter in Arizona, his health is too much of a wild card to waste a first or second round pick on him. The Cardinals have shown they know how to get the most out of him, especially in the red zone. If he can stay healthy, I think he is one of the better RB2 options you could pick up. Take him somewhere in the third or fourth round.