2016 NFL Draft: early look at Pittsburgh’s James Conner


Pittsburgh’s James Conner is a big-bodied running back who features a bruising style. He’s the bell-cow for the Pittsburgh offense and is counted on to set the tone. However, there are issues with his game that hurts his projection to the NFL.

Conner has an upright running style that exposes a ton of his body. He lacks the balance and base needed to make quick cuts. This is a north-south runner who will struggle breaking a lot of tackles because of this upright running style.

The image below shows Conner approaching the line of scrimmage with a high pad-level:

via draftbreakdown.com

Running backs who find the most success run behind their pads and low to the ground. This allows them to keep a balanced base in order to fight through contact and pant a foot to make a clean cut. Conner doesn’t have that change of direction ability needed to move his momentum to a different running lane.

This is a one-dimensional player in that Conner offers next to nothing in the passing game. He only had five receptions last year.

Despite his problem areas, Conner has some value thanks to his surprising quickness and home-run ability. He shows the ability to burst through the hole and outpace the defensive angles. This clip shows why he’s a big-play threat:

Conner is also a tough runner who keeps his legs churning through contact. If he focused on lowering his pads he’d find it easier to break tackles.

His draft value is on the lower side thanks to the lower value placed on the position and the fact his running style doesn’t fit most schemes. There just isn’t a ton of teams looking to add a lumbering running back who has zero value in the passing game.

Current Draft Position: 5th Round