Saturday, September 30, 2023

James Conner re-signs with Cardinals: Fantasy Football outlook, plus why he has top-five RB1 upside in 2022

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

James Conner is returning to the Arizona Cardinals and could enter a better situation than he was involved with during the 2021 season. The veteran running back is returning to the Cardinals on a three-year deal. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is worth $21 million and could grow to a maximum of $25.5 million. It also includes $13.5 million guaranteed.

Conner stayed in Arizona on a three-year deal, and it’s hard to imagine a better landing spot for the 26-year-old after Chase Edmonds is set to sign with the Miami Dolphins. Conner totaled 1,127 yards and 18 touchdowns in 15 games in his first season in this Kliff Kingsbury offense in 2021, but that’s only part of it.

In five games without Edmonds last year, Conner averaged 114 total yards, 4.8 catches, and 25.8 PPR Fantasy points per game. The running back position in Arizona under Kliff Kingsbury has been one of the most valuable in Fantasy football. If the Cardinals don’t add another back of significance in the next two months, Conner will project as a top-12 back with top-five upside. The only thing that might keep people from drafting him like that is his injury history, but that history isn’t that much different than Dalvin Cook’s.

Conner’s injury history is the only concern here and it could cause the Cardinals to invest in the running back position later in free agency or in the 2022 NFL Draft, but it’s hard to imagine a rookie carving out a bigger role in 2022 than Edmonds held in 2021. Plus, Conner has already proven capable of handling all three downs — including pass down and red zone work.

Although he racked up the career-high 18 touchdowns in 2021, Conner’s best season came back in 2018 with the Steelers. In that year that Le’Veon Bell held out for a new contract, Conner broke onto the scene with 973 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in just 13 games. In year two of the Kingsbury offense, with familiarity within the system, behind this offensive line and with Kyler Murray, Conner could surpass those numbers in 2022. 

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