After years of struggling with injuries, James Conner finally had another chance to shine in 2021, improving his fantasy football outlook for the upcoming 2022 NFL season.
In a career-high 15 games in 2021, the running back led the team with 752 rushing yards with a career-best 15 touchdowns, plus adding 375 receiving yards with three scores. All those numbers made him a Pro Bowler for the second time in his career.
Because of that, he earned a big payday and re-signed with the Arizona Cardinals on a three-year deal worth $21 million. If that indicates anything, the Cardinals should be expecting another great year from Conner.
But can he do it again? Some losses and additions in Arizona’s offensive game will likely make or break Conner’s chances of having another Pro Bowl-level season. His experience might play a part, but with such an impressive 2021, it could be challenging to have those numbers again.
With being said, here is the fantasy football outlook for James Conner for the upcoming 2022 NFL season.
James Conner 2022 Fantasy Football Outlook
Last year, James Conner finished the season as the RB5 in most traditional fantasy football formats, averaging 17.2 points per game. And his numbers backup his position.
For his career, Conner has a solid 83.9% catch rate for over 7.0 yards per catch. Last year, he had an impressive 94.9% catch rate for 9.4 yards, almost a guaranteed first down every time he caught the ball.
The Cardinals also chose to preserve quarterback Kyler Murray by limiting his red zone rushes. Because of that, Conner had a higher presence and touchdowns, something that the team might consider replicating in order to save the star quarterback for the playoffs.
Additionally, some of the moves that Arizona made in the offseason work both for and against the case of Conner replicating his 2021 year.
The team saw Chase Edmonds leave for the Miami Dolphins. Edmonds finished the year behind Conner in rushing yards with 592, plus adding two scores. He also had 43 catches for 311 yards. With the second-leading rushing player gone, Conner has a chance of getting more carries and earn some extra yardage on the ground.
Another thing that can benefit James Conner is that Cardinals star DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season. With one of the primary targets out, a veteran like Conner can be seen as a short-term solution in the air. As previously mentioned, he has impressive numbers when targeted and can help Arizona when the team is missing a key offensive players.
But not everything worked out in favor of Conner. The Cardinals brought Marquise Brown, as well as using their second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to select tight end Trey McBride from Colorado State. Both moves are likely to limit Conner’s role in the passing game, which makes is career-year with rushing even more important.
Conner has also struggled to stay healthy. In five seasons in the league, he missed at least two games every year due to injuries. Being injury-prone and at age 27, the running back’s play can be seriously affected in case of another ankle or knee injury. His missed games every year may sound off potential high picks in fantasy football drafts.
Where to Draft?
Overall, James Conner is a very impactful and key player in the Cardinals’ offense. If he is able to stay healthy, there is a high chance he is able to put on some solid numbers once again, both catching and rushing. But again, it is a risk to select someone with an extensive history of injuries. Conner should be a top-five running back this upcoming year, and the third-round sounds like a fair place to take him, but not beyond the fourth round.