Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 NFL Draft Profile: James Conner

James Conner, Pittsburgh
6-1, 233
Conner was a full four year player at Pitt, despite missing all but one game in 2015 as he was battling health issues related to leukemia. He started as a freshman, and led the team in rushing with 799 yards and eight scores on 146 carries. He averaged 12.17 carries per game, and 5.47 YPC. As a sophomore, Conner lit up the world with a star performance. He led the team once again with 1765 yards rushing on 298 carries, and he scored an amazing 26 rushing TDs. He averaged 22.92 carries per game, and 5.92 YPC, and he became a household name in the college football world.
His junior season was all but erased, as he was diagnosed with leukemia, and played in just one game as a result. He carried eight times for 77 yards and scored twice, as was typical of his standard efforts.
As a senior, Conner returned healthy, and came back to rush for 1092 yards on 216 carries. He scored 16 times, and averaged 16.62 carries per game, and averaged 5.06 YPC.
The Good
Hard, physical runner who can use his physicality to grind out extra yardage.
Hard worker, and team leader. Supremely high character level.
Returned from illness physically stronger.
Has perfected pad level, and knows how to use them.
The epitome of powerful runner. Uses nasty stiff arm and brute strength to his advantage.
Lower body is a power plant.
Solid body control, and he can make his own holes.
Knows how to find the end zone with regularity.
A go to guy on the goal line and in the red zone.
Solid pass blocker, and will sell out for blocks.
Excellent receiver on passing downs.
The Bad
Conner does not have elite speed, and depends often on his physical style of running to make things happen.
He is not a creator in the run game, and when he tries to be, it is detrimental.
Purely a power back, and plays with zero finesse. Bull in a china shop.
He does not have excellent field vision, and often just goes for it without seeing the whole picture.
The medical issues are always going to be in the background for him, and will concern some teams, which is why he is not graded out higher.
Final Overview
If not for his illness in 2015, Conner would likely be graded out as a 2nd round pick, but he rates as a 5th rounder here. He is a pure power back who can punch the ball into the end zone, and he is a natural when it comes to high character, which is important, or at least should be. If you are looking for a short yardage specialist and goal line threat, Conner is your guy, but he can do more as well. He just needs the right break with the right staff.

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