Is Steelers running back James Conner still a viable fantasy option?

James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

James Conner may be the Steelers lead running back but does that mean he is still worth drafting in fantasy football after an unimpressive 2019 season?

James Conner is the Steelers lead running back going into the 2020-2021 NFL season. Conner was selected in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers to back up Le’Veon Bell, and he played sparingly for Pittsburgh during his rookie season before being placed on the injured reserve to finish the year.

When the 2017 offseason began, the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell had begun to discuss an extension. Bell had stated that if he were franchised again, he would sit out to start the season. Surely enough, the Steelers and Bell could not come to an agreement, and Bell refused to sign his franchise tag. This left the Pennsylvania native and former Pitt running back, James Conner, to start the season as the starter.

James Conner used to be electric for fantasy football teams

Fantasy owners across the NFL were filled with uncertainty as many had selected Bell with their first-round selection. Quickly, many tried to claim Conner off the waiver wire and those who claimed him now debated if he was worth the play. If you played James Conner as your running back in fantasy, congratulations! You had arguably the biggest steal of the waiver wire in 2018. In Conner’s first game that season, he rushed for 135 yards on 31 carries and contributed two touchdowns.

After Conner’s big first game, owners who still had Conner in their league claimed him as soon as possible. The next week against the Chiefs, Conner was not as dominant with only having 17 rushing yards and a touchdown but in terms of fantasy, Conner still was producing numbers.

Owners who played Conner in Week 5 were treated to a nice reward when Conner rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. It got even better too when Conner rushed once again for over 100 yards and two touchdowns during Week 6. The hype was there and many began to call James Conner the best fantasy running back that season.

Conner continued to dominate during the 2018 season and just two weeks after his stellar performance, he replicated it again, but better. Conner rushed for 146 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. He was solidified as the Steelers running back for good after Week 8 when Bell had forfeited the entire season by not signing his franchise tag. Conner would go down with a lower leg injury against the Rams during Week 13 but would return for the season finale and the pro bowl. Conner finished the season with 973 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 497 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. 

James Conner was now at the top of every fantasy owner’s radar going into the 2019 season and it was for good reason. Conner’s 2018 season saw him average 17 points a game – which was impressive. However, the hype seemed to be too much and in the 2019 season, Conner only averaged 11 fantasy points a game due to battling various injuries but when he was on the field, Conner still contributed to fantasy teams.

Conner has always had an issue with injuries throughout his playing career. In college, Conner tore his MCL during the 2015 season and was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The city of Pittsburgh and everywhere across the globe rallied with James and gave their support.

Conner overcame cancer on May 23rd, 2016, and was able to return for his junior season at the University of Pittsburgh. While Conner overcoming cancer has nothing to do with his injury history as rather this showed how much of a warrior he is and that is why it gives me hope as a fantasy owner.

The Steelers running back has missed some time in every season he as played in the NFL and while this is not great news for owners, his value is too much to pass on. When Conner is on the field, there is a great chance he will go out and score at least 10 points which is great for a flex play and in 16 team leagues, making him a solid running back two. While I personally would not draft James Conner in the first or second round of my fantasy draft, I think anything after round three is a steal.

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Yes, I think James Conner is worth it in fantasy and if anyone is saying otherwise than they are just trying to steal Conner away. I am excited to see what Conner can accomplish if he remains healthy for the entire season. If he does, then watch out for when you have to face up against him.