NFL Draft Scouting Report: James Conner

Pittsburgh
Running Back #24
RS Junior 6’1 233

  • 2014 ACC Player of the Year
  • All Time ACC leader in touchdowns (56)
  • 2nd in school history in rushing yards
  • Physical runner
  • Pass catching ability
  • Voted team captain
  • Adequate pass blocking
  • Tore MCL in 2015
  • Lacks NFL speed (4.65 Forty)

James Conner and his story are one of the best in all of college football. Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma after a season ending injury in 2015. However, he displayed the same grit and toughness off the field that makes him such an intriguing prospect on it. Conner is a bruising power back who does his best work between the tackles. His strength and determination make it almost impossible for a single defender to bring him down. If given an opportunity to square his shoulders, he can run through multiple defenders and wearing down his opponent.

This video shows all that Conner can bring to an NFL team. When he sees an opening and goes he is an absolute force. Arm tackles alone will not bring him down. Conner does his best work inside the tackles punishing defenders. He thrives in a single cut and go system and could find a home in short term situations for almost any NFL team. His pass catching is limited but he has shown the ability to be effective at swing passes.

Conner does come with some risk. Unfortunately, his health has to come into question and not just the lymphoma as he did tear his MCL in 2016. Bouncing back with a solid 2016 season should help ease some of these concerns but he wasn’t nearly the dynamic offensive force he was in 2014.

Round Value: 6th-7th

Player Comparison: Dorsey Levens

Dorsey and Connor both have similar physical attributes as bigger backs that can find a home in the right system. I liked this comparison as Levens and Conner both lacked elite speed but thrive in a single cut and go system. If Connor is drafted into a situation where he is able to learn behind a veteran, he could develop into a fine NFL running back. In the immediate, he is more then adequate in short yardage situations.

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