Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Conner
- James Conner burst onto the scene in Le'Veon Bell's place last season and is locked in as the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting running back.
- Does he have another positive fantasy football outlook in 2019? Ian Hartitz analyzes Conner's situation.
We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.
The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season. Their 9-6-1 campaign did extend their streak of seasons without a losing record to 15, but consistent drama around Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown largely defined the disappointing season.
The good news for Steelers faithful is that their future still appears to be fairly bright — particularly on offense. Budding third-year superstars JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner should help continue to extend Ben Roethlisberger’s career thanks to their immense talent, while the team is expected to return all five starters from a top-10 overall offensive line in 2019.
Conner is again positioned to thrive thanks to his large workload and status as one of the NFL’s best young backs. Let’s take a look at his fantasy football outlook below.
James Conner Was One of the NFL’s Best RBs in 2018
It’s tough to properly gauge the value of the running back position considering how dependent they are on their quarterback and offensive line for success.
With that said, Conner separated himself from his peers last season by demonstrating some elite tackle-breaking ability.
The only running backs who joined Conner in the 50 broken tackles club during Weeks 1-13 were Saquon Barkley and Kareem Hunt, who just so happened to lead the NFL in broken tackles during the 2018 and 2017 seasons, respectively.
Conner should also be lauded for having a complete enough skill set to stay on the field and handle 20-plus touches per game. He joined Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon as the only running backs with at least 200 carries and 50 targets in 2018. Conner was also one of just nine backs who played at least 60% of their offense’s snaps during the regular season.
It’s rare to find 6-foot-1, 230-pound running backs who are able to move in space like Conner can.