James Conner: Low-End Fantasy RB1 Outlook Until He Breaks... So Sell High Now - Roto Street Journal
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James Conner: Low-End Fantasy RB1 Outlook Until He Breaks… So Sell High Now

James Conner ruined Week 1 for countless fantasy football owners. He then rewarded those willing to trust him in Week 2, returning to his workhorse role and showing zero ill-effects.

Conner played 50 of 65 snaps (77%), amassing 18 touches (2 rec.) for 131 total yards and a TD.

Meanwhile, Benny Snell, rumored to be Conner’s 1A, was a distant afterthought. Snell touched the field just 10 times (6.5%), tallying three carries for a meager five yards.

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Granted, half of Conner’s carries came on a 59-yard jaunt with the Steelers bleeding clock. Otherwise, he was largely stifled.

Still, Conner’s workload and snap share, a week after Snell thrived amidst his absence, are far more important developments.

Steelers HC Mike Tomlin has not been shy endorsing Conner as “the guy.” During camp, Tomlin raved:

“James is a featured guy and proven runner when healthy,” Tomlin said. “We’re excited about him getting back to health and displaying that in 2020.”

Then, on the eve of the season, Tomlin drove home:

An early Week 1 ankle ailment caused many, including myself, to question if Conner would walk right back into his role. Silly me.

Tomlin has ALWAYS loved workhorses. “I’m a featured-runner type guy by mentality,” he admitted, and his actions speak louder than words.

Before last year and since 2014, the Steelers top RB had averaged 24.65 opportunities (attempts + targets) and 22.45 fantasy points per game. On average, they finished between the RB2 and RB3 in fantasy. Not a single one finished with fewer than 21.9 opportunities or 18.5 fantasy points per game.

It didn’t matter if it was Conner, Le’Veon Bell, his backup DeAngelo Williams, or even Stevan Ridley. Tomlin FEEDS his No.1 RB.

Conner is just one year removed from a 2018 Fantasy MVP season in which he amassed 270 touches (55 rec), 1470 toal yards and 13 TDs in only 13 GP. He was the RB6 in fantasy. In ESPN Leagues, just owning Conner gave you a 75.9% chance at making the playoffs.

Hell, even last year with steaming garbage under center, Conner averaged 17.4 FPPG in the contests that he fully finished, good for the RB9 last season.

Although it’s nice to delete workload questions from Conner’s fantasy football outlook, those were never the greatest concern. That remains his health, and always will.

Conner defines “ticking time bomb” on the injury front. Unfortunately, it’s truly a matter of when and not if.

Consequently, just like Will Fuller last week, Conner is a recommended “Fantasy Sell High.” Pump this workhorse performance and all the historic Tomlin workhorse stats above. In particular, target owners scrambling from Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley injuries. They’ll feel far more obligated to ignore Conner’s massive risk and hand over Low-End WR1 / Elite WR2 ( (Golladay, Moore, Diggs) to secure a replacement plan.

Or, if you feel like playing Russian Roulette, pray the injury bullet is far deeper in the chamber than last year. Revel in the beauty of however many workhorse games you get. Conner, at minimum, rises a steep +30 spots on my Rest of Season Big Board, to 37 overall. Workhorse is truly that thin.

Meanwhile, Benny Snell remains a hold in most leagues. He looked exceptional in Week 1 while filling in for Conner, totalling 19 carries and 113 yards. Snell showed he’d be Tomlin’s next workhorse when called upon, and we know it’s only a matter of time. While unfortunate this handcuff won’t come with usable benefits, Snell remains among the top backups in fantasy.

Author

  • Founder of Roto Street Journal. Lover of workhorse backs, target hog wideouts, and Game of Thrones. Aspiring to be the "Brady" and "Leo" of the fantasy universe.

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