Photo of James Conner
Drafted By: Steelers

Combine Results

Grade
5.4 ?
  • 4.65 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 20 REPS
    Top Performer
  • 29.0 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 113.0 INCH
    Top Performer

Draft Analysis:

"It's a special story for a young man who battled back, beat cancer, had to spend time out, and it took a little while to get his game back because at one point, remember he was the ACC Player of the Year. Explosive, dynamic, physical, runs through contact. I think he catches the ball better than maybe he gets credit for." -- Charles Davis

  • 6'1" Height
  • 31 1/4" Arm Length
  • 233LBS. Weight
  • 9 7/8" Hands

Overview

Conner has become one of the best stories coming out of college football the past couple of seasons, overcoming a diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma to return to the field. He won the Disney Spirit Award and the ACC Brian Piccolo Award as rewards for beating cancer, but his best accomplishment was earning first-team all-conference recognition by carrying the ball 216 times for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Doctors found the issue while Conner was trying to rehabilitate a torn right MCL that forced him to miss all but the opener of the 2015 season. Conner made a name for himself by racking up 1,765 yards and 26 scores as a sophomore, garnering second-team AP All-American and ACC Player of the Year honors. He ranked third in the FBS in rushing yards despite being hindered by a hip injury the final two regular season games. In his true freshman season, Conner came on late, setting a school bowl record with 229 yards against Bowling Green as the Little Caesar's Bowl MVP (he had 799 yards, eight TDs total on the year.)

Analysis

Strengths

Team captain known for incredible resilience and mental toughness. Leaned down and added more muscle mass this season. Arm tackles are a waste of time. Carries heavy momentum behind pads at finish. Drops shoulder to punish final tackler. Uses wicked stiff-arm to punch and swat tacklers to the ground. Creates for himself through brute force. Natural power in lower half. Doesn't need a clean point of entry for aggressive, downhill charge. Excellent contact balance despite heavy shots on his legs. Short-yardage specialist who can move the chains and score touchdowns. Willing to leave his feet and sacrifice body near goal line. Willing blocker in pass pro and showed ability to come out of backfield in wheel routes, swing passes and outs.

Weaknesses

Needs a clean slate of blocks to consistently make his way around the corner on the next level. Could struggle to accelerate from tacklers if he gets too cute. Runs with stiff hips and heavy legs. Lacks quick-escape athleticism for sudden shake in open field. All power, no finesse. Early defensive penetration short-circuits his run. Average lateral movement and not desired amount for every-down back. Can be a little slow to process moving parts in front of him. Not a press-and-cut back and needs to learn to set blocks up better. Hands a little stiff as pass catcher and will fight the ball at times. Tape shows occasional confusion in blitz pick-up. Medical concerns will continue to follow him.

Draft Projection

Rounds 5-6

NFL Comparison

T.J. Duckett

Bottom Line

Physical, battering-ram style runner who makes the hitting a two-way affair. Conner's lack of speed and reactive quickness could limit his role as a pro, but his heart, work ethic and ability to keep the chains moving could make him a red-zone specialist with the ability to handle some third down duties as well.
-Lance Zierlein
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability
6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential
6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter
5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter
5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter
5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential
5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
5.00 50/50 Chance of making the roster

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