In general, it’s not too surprising that the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately selected former University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner during the 2017 NFL Draft last weekend. However, what was a little surprising is the fact they took him in the third-round. While several will analyze the Steelers selection of Conner as a bit of a reach, the more you look at his college tape the more you can see why they took him in the third-round.
Conner, who measured in at this year’s scouting combine at 6014, 233-pounds, ran his 40-yard-dash in Indianapolis in 4.65-seconds and that’s considered slow when compared to most of the other high-profile running backs in this year’s draft class that were invited to the annual event. However, Conner’s 4.31 short-shuttle time that he registered at his pro day was respectable when compared to that same group of players.
While Conner might not be blessed with blazing speed or cat-like agility, you might be interested to know that he was one of the most explosive FBS running backs in 2016. By explosive I mean runs of 20 yards or more and Conner had 19 such gallops for Pittsburgh during the 2016 season.
In total, there were 27 FBS running backs selected during the 2017 NFL Draft and when you look at the explosive runs of 20 yards or more each of those players registered during the 2016 season, only Donnel Pumphrey (23) and Aaron Jones (20) had more than Conner (19) did. Conner also registered 32 total runs of 10 yards or more during the 2016 season and of the seven running backs who were drafted ahead of him last weekend, five of them registered more than he did.
In case you’re curious, Conner registered 110 runs of 10 yards or more on 668 total carries at Pittsburgh and 39 total runs of 20 yards or more.
I was able to find 16 of Conner’s 19 total explosive runs from the 2016 season and have them compiled for you to watch in the video below. While watching the video, make sure to notice how many yards Conner gets on each of the 16 runs after first contact is made with him.
2017 Drafted FBS Running Backs 2016 Explosive Plays
|FBS RB 2016||G||Att||Yards||Avg.||TD||Long||1st||10+||20+|