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|Plucked off the scrap heap before last season on a one-year, prove-it deal, Conner went from designated short-yardage/goal-line back to primary ballcarrier when Chase Edmonds got hurt. He handled the role admirably, finishing second to Jonathan Taylor (18) in rushing TDs (15), and was rewarded with a new three-year deal that cements his status as the lead back in Arizona.
For all that, there are still significant questions about Conner's ability to hold up as a bell cow over an entire season -- after five NFL campaigns he's still never appeared in every game in a season and has missed a combined 16 games during that stretch -- as well as a lack of explosiveness. Conner managed just 3.7 yards per carry last year, and he finished below 4.0 in five of his final six games, so his style is more about wearing you down than delivering big plays.
One thing working in Conner's favor is the depth chart, which is light on proven commodities or threats to usurp his touches from week to week. He's a capable receiver as well, which allows him to stay on the field regardless of down and distance. Conner has the whiff of a midrange or low-end RB2, though he carries significant injury risk.
| James Conner out for Week 18|
Corey Clement and Keaontay Ingram expected to be RBs for ARI
By: Mike Krueger | Fri Jan 6, 1:50 pm
|RB James Conner won’t play Sunday for the #AZCardinals. Corey Clement and Keaontay Ingram will both fill the void, Kingsbury said. (Darren Urban on Twitter)|
FFToday's Take: Conner has been a workhorse for the Cardinals the last few weeks, routinely playing 90-plus percent of the running back snaps. He picked up a shin injury last week which allowed Clement to play 43% of the snaps. That would indicate that Clement will be the lead back in a tough matchup against the 49ers run defense. Clement checks in a low-end RB2.
| James Conner nursing minor shin injury|
Managed only 41 snaps in Week 17
By: Doug Orth | Mon Jan 2, 7:00 pm
|Cardinals RB James Conner is day to day with his shin injury, HC Kliff Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury called it "nothing major" and said x-rays were negative. (ESPN - Josh Weinfuss)|
FFToday's Take: The Cardinals notably turned to Corey Clement after Conner exited, but it sounds as though Conner will be good to go in Week 18. The one problem is facing a 49ers defense that remains the most stout defense for running backs - even after a bit of an uncharacteristic performance in Week 17 versus the Raiders. If Conner plays in the season finale, consider him a RB2 with little upside.