26 Undervalued Running Backs

The Footballguys staff finds value at the running back position

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 5 Votes

James Conner, Pittsburgh

James Brimacombe: The Steelers offense was a mess last season as they were playing with second and third-string quarterbacks and the rest of the offense just never could take off because of it. Conner missed six games in 2019 and still collected 725 total yards and seven touchdowns and finished the RB33. With the hopes of Ben Roethlisberger back to full health, the Steelers offense as a whole will see a big increase, and hopefully, Conner can see his numbers like the 2018 season where he finished as RB6 with 1470 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games.

Andrew Davenport: When taking a chance on a player like Conner the key is whether or not the risk is baked into his ADP. That appears to be the case for Conner this year. After a breakout 2018 ended in injury, and 2019 was beset with issues as well, it's fair to wonder whether Conner can hold up as a workhorse running back. But all the positive signs are there that Conner is in a great spot to produce this upcoming season assuming he can stay on the field. He has a very good offensive line, the coaching staff has recommitted to him as the guy they want to feed, and the Steelers also possess a very good defense. Not to mention they return their starting quarterback to give the whole offense a boost. Just one year ago Conner was flirting with first-round ADP. Now he can be had much, much later with the same upside. Sure there is a risk, but his ADP has that factored in and that makes Conner a valuable play.

Jeff Haseley: Last year James Conner was the 9th ranked fantasy running back in PPR scoring through Week 8. He suffered a shoulder injury and later a quad injury which limited his usage for the rest of the season. Conner is expected to be the Steelers' primary rusher in 2020, and his skill set allows him to be a three-down back. This is a contract year for him and Pittsburgh may elect not to re-sign him after the season. As a result, the Steelers could utilize him without the repercussions of having an overworked running back the following year. The return of Ben Roethlisberger should give the offense a boost. Through a microscope, Conner has 50+ reception potential with double-digit touchdowns. His competition includes Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and rookie Antonio McFarland. It's no guarantee that Samuels and Snell will both be on the team in Week 1.

Bob Henry: Initially, I had Conner ranked lower out of worries that the Steeler backfield is one that will likely be shared and has more talented depth than in prior seasons. I have changed my viewpoint, though, after Head Coach Mike Tomlin reaffirmed his desire to feature Conner. Last year was an anomaly all around for the Steelers offense. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the entire offense contracted into a shell of itself. With Ben behind center, it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. Not only does target quality improve in the passing game, but the overall scripts, pace, and scoring opportunities do, too. Conner has been featured before and Tomlin’s history suggests that we should expect about 13-to-15 carries and around 4 receptions per game. He’s being drafted as a mid-RB2 and the valuation difference isn’t as great as with David Johnson, but the return is likely similar to a fringe RB1 if he stays healthy.

Matt Waldman: The Steelers have a top-tier offensive line. Last year it had to play with reserve-caliber, skill talent. This year, those veteran skill players will be back in the lineup and it will make a huge difference. Conner suffered shoulder and quadriceps injuries that limited his workload, and he lacked a viable NFL quarterback in the lineup for all but two games of the year. Look at the Steelers yards per attempt numbers in the 2019 passing game and it's clear that opponents weren't afraid of the Steelers passing game, which meant it could focus more on attacking the run. With a quarterback who can attempt deeper passes and keep opposing defenses from crowding the box, Conner will have bigger rushing lanes. Mike Tomlin dispelled notions that Conner would see a significant cut in touches, telling the media that Conner will be the featured back.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

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