RB James Conner, Pittsburgh*

6’1” – 233 lbs. – 4.65

Rushed for nearly eight hundred yards as a freshman, then was one of college football’s best running backs as a sophomore. Missed all but one game of his junior season, suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a torn MCL, but returned to enjoy a productive redshirt junior season. Team captain. Tall, well-built runner who looks like a potential workhorse at the next level. Took a lot of carries out of pro-style formations, running between the tackles; most of his rushes were on zone concepts. Plays with the desired toughness and aggression. When given a rushing lane, wastes no time in hitting the hole and exhibits impressive burst for a back with his size. Has an ability to fit through creases which is more typical of a smaller back. Is a hard runner at the second level, with the ability to lower his shoulder and punish defensive backs and some linebackers when he gets a head of steam. Quicker than anticipated, with nice cuts and the ability to spin off of some would-be tacklers; that said, relies predominantly on his power as a rusher. Works in a stiff-arm which looks powerful and effective. Found his way into the open for chunks of yardage on a regular basis in college but might not be a true home-run hitter; seems to run out of gas further downfield. Has some ability to make jump-cuts and find open rushing lanes, although his ability to explode through open cutback lanes is more impressive than his ability to create something out of nothing. Isn’t as powerful near the line and in short-yardage situations as he should be; tends to run a little bit upright and may not have the leg drive to grind out tough yardage on a consistent basis. May not be quite fast enough to win the edge at the pro level. Misses some cutback lanes because of what looks like a lack of patience. On passing downs, will occasionally run patterns into the flats (and more uncommonly wheel routes) and appears to have reliable hands, catching passes off of play-action in an attempt to get him into open space, but responsibilities didn’t extend far beyond that. Occasionally retained in pass protection and has the size and temperament for that role but might need more reps before he’s able to contribute. Medical concerns will be an important part of his draft stock. A big, powerful runner with uncommon burst for his size, but who might be more of a mid-round pick because of his medical concerns and because he lacks ideal top-end athleticism.

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