by Logical Fantasy
When trying to predict how a player will perform in an upcoming season, we analyze the players past performance trends, weigh draft stock and take a hard look at competition for touches. All are worthy endeavors and predictors of future success at some level. We often don’t spend nearly enough time, though, on the tendencies of the guy who decides who plays and who doesn’t. Take Mike Tomlin for example. In six of the last ten seasons, Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have produced an RB1 and in 5 of those seasons, they have produced a top 6 RB in PPR formats. Sure Le’Veon Bell accounted for a few of those, but don’t forget Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams and…. James Conner who came in as RB6 in 2018, becoming the 4th back to finish in the top 12 for Tomlin over the last 10 years.
2019 was a bad year for the Steelers offense in general with Big Ben on the sidelines. They were 3rd last in total yards and 6th last in total points. James Conner only played 10 games because of his own injuries but he still managed to put up 3 RB1 weeks and lead the team in rushing so after his breakout 2018 year, it’s not like he got Wally Pipped or anything. Rookie Benny Snell came close to matching Conner’s rushing numbers but didn’t have anything to offer in the passing game – vice versa for Jaylen Samuels. Oh, and in a draft with a ton of RB talent and several proven RBs floating around in free agency, the only addition to the Steelers backfield so far has been a 4th round pick in Anthony McFarland.
In 2019, James Conner had the 3rd highest receiving grade among RB's
(minimum 30 rec) pic.twitter.com/pF8sDAC6t2
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) July 18, 2020
So now we look ahead to this year. You’ve got a healthy Big Ben back. The Steelers are consistently a top ten offense with him under center so there are fantasy points there for the taking. You’ve got a coach that prefers to stick with his guy at RB, even after a down or away year (see: Le’Veon Bell) and you’ve got a 25 year old, now healthy back that has led the team in rushing in back to back years coming into his contract season. In this day in age where bell cow backs are a dying breed, Conner is a surefire RB1 in 2020, right? Currently being drafted as RB25. Go figure.