Cardinals Sign James Conner: 2021 Arizona Bet, Chase Edmonds Fantasy Football Tips

James Conner signs with Cardinals: ESPN’s Field Yates is reporting the Arizona Cardinals have signed RB James Conner to a one-year deal.



James Conner signs with Cardinals

The Cardinals have had an eventful offseason of notable player personnel additions. Not only did they make a splash with DE J.J. Watt, but they also brought in WR A.J. Green, CB Malcolm Butler, K Matt Prater, and C Rodney Hudson via a trade with the Raiders, amongst others. The latest signing comes in the form of RB James Conner, formerly of the Steelers.

Conner’s signing is one that makes sense considering the departure of RB Kenyan Drake in free agency. While the 25-year-old back comes with injury concerns, missing nine games since the start of the 2019 season and 14 total in his four-year career, he also brings a high ceiling.

While Conner only totaled 936 yards (215 receiving) and six touchdowns in 13 games, he popped back in 2018, his best year as a pro. In that season, Conner rushed 215 times for 973 yards with 12 touchdowns while adding a 55/497/1 line on 71 targets as a receiver in 13 appearances. A healthy Conner can flash as one of the league’s most productive backs. However, if he’s banged up, his upside is diminished.

Conner joins a Cardinals backfield that already employs Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin, and Jonathan Ward. While many have clambered for the Cardinals to deploy Edmonds as the full-time starter or draft a running back, I believe Conner can get the job done in the Drake role.

Conner is a bigger back than Drake. Although they are both 6-foot-1, Conner weighs 233 pounds while Drake hovers around 211. Therefore, I can see Conner slated in Drake’s vacant early-down role while Edmonds handles his normal role as the passing-down back. Sure, Edmonds has impressed when his number was called upon to be the starter, but the belief is that’s when the impending fourth-year pro is at his best, utilized as a reliable pass-catcher who can play well in sporadic opportunities as the RB1.

It is important to note that both Conner and Edmonds are entering contract years. While running back is not a priority addition for the Cardinals in the upcoming NFL Draft, they can still target one early, especially if talent falls. It would be a luxury add for 2021 considering their current running back room but would make both Conner and Edmonds expendable next offseason, allowing the team to use that cap space to improve elsewhere.

Cardinals Sign James Conner: 2021 Betting & Fantasy Football Outlook For Arizona, Chase Edmonds

Cardinals sign James Conner, which means Chase Edmonds will be in a time share at running back for Arizona. This will be a two-RB fantasy football backfield. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)


Cardinals 2021 NFL Betting Outlook

Arizona Cardinals to Win Super Bowl 56 (+3300)

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+3300

Arizona Cardinals To Win Super Bowl 56 In 2022

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I normally wouldn’t discuss a wager that I believe could hit at this point. However, I am going to go out on a limb and talk about why the Cardinals are poised to contend for Super Bowl 56.

I will also tell you why placing a moderate wager on the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl getting (+3300) odds is a terrific idea in the same context.

Last season, the Cardinals entered their second year with HC Kliff Kingbury and QB Kyler Murray. In that 2020 campaign, the Cardinals finished 8-8 and just missed the playoffs, they opened the year strong with a 6-3 record. In the second half, the team collapsed, primarily to due Murray getting banged up, ending 2020 on a regressive 2-5 note.

While they were a middling team, the Cardinals finished 13th in PPG (25.6) and 13th in poised allowed (22.9). Moreover, five of their eight losses were decided by fewer than eight points, essentially one possession if they score a touchdown and two-point conversion. Going deeper, three of those five games were decided by field goals. If the ball bounced the Cardinals’ way a few times, they would have been a postseason club.

The Cardinals were better than their record in 2020.

A young team with room to grow, the Cardinals were wise with their player additions. Not only can J.J. Watt make a difference on the field, but future Hall of Famer could also help the defense in the locker room and in the film room.

There is nothing the former Defensive Player of the Year hasn’t seen. I can say the same about the A.J. Green signing. Sure, he is not the same player as he was in his prime, but he will have a vastly different role in Arizona. Green will no longer be employed as the No. 1 wide receiver like he was in Cincinnati. That job belongs to DeAndre Hopkins, who will also draw the double-coverage more times than not. Therefore, while Green is playing on the back nine of his career, he will have an easier time getting open as long as his health is intact. Like it or not, Green is an upgrade over Christian Kirk and the 2020 version of Larry Fitzgerald.

Other notable additions like C Rodney Hudson will upgrade an Arizona offensive line that finished 2020 ranked as the 12th best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus while RB James Conner, when healthy, is as productive as they come at running back.

What do Watt, Green, and Conner have in common? High ceiling and an injury-plagued past. If those players can remain healthy for the better part of the season, the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at making a run.

If you are looking to place a bet on a sleeper team to emerge and win Super Bowl 56, I am all-in on the Cardinals. While they have some holes, they can enter the NFL Draft with the mindset of adding win-now players over players that can help them down the road. They are in a terrific spot.

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James Conner 2021 Fantasy Football Outlook

Since 2018, James Conner has been a polarizing back in fantasy football. He’s showcased ample upside, but also has deterred fantasy managers away with his lack of durability. When on the field, however, you can’t deny what Conner brings. He is built like an early-down back but can still produce as a receiver.

In each of the past three seasons, Conner has finished as the PPR RB6 (13 games), RB35 (10 games), and RB27 (13 games). While he’s been dealing with injuries in each of the past two seasons, causing his numbers to regress, that 2018 RB6 finish cant be ignored.

Due to the presence of Chase Edmonds, I wouldn’t expect Conner to be leaned upon the every-down back as he normally was in Pittsburgh. Fewer touches should result in a fresher and healthier player. I believe Conner is poised to assume the role of Kenyan Drake, who signed with the Raiders in free agency while leaving behind 264 vacant touches, 239 of which, were rushing attempts. Drake was the team’s early-down and goal-line back.

What’s more, Drake’s touches were valuable. He was fourth amongst running backs in red-zone touches (57) and second in goal-line carried (19). Since Conner is a larger back, he should be able to convert more of those red area opportunities into scores, which bodes well for his fantasy football outlook.

I wouldn’t pay a high price for Conner’s services, but if he is available in the sixth round of PPR leagues, I might reach for him considering an already light running back pool after the usual upper-echelon options are off the board.

The addition of Conner should abbreviate the offseason hype of Edmonds. Since Drake signed with the Raiders, the fantasy football community was all-in on Edmonds. As a result, his ADP shot up. I’ve seen him taken as soon as the fourth round in PPR leagues with an average draft position sitting in the fifth. It would have only continued to trend upwards if Conner didn’t sign.

I’m not saying that Edmonds is not capable, but I feel that many are holding on to that game against the Giants from 2019 in which he popped as the Week 7 RB1 with 35 PPR points, totaling 150 yards and three scores. While he was the seventh-best back in yards per touch last season (5.7), he only managed 150 touches.

Edmonds has also managed fewer than 93 carries in each of his first three seasons as a pro — are we really sure he can handle the early-down work?

There are a lot more questions than answers when it comes to Edmonds’ value as the full-time starter, which brings more risk with one of your early building block draft picks. With Conner in town, I would value Edmonds similarly as I did last season with a tad more upside.

Edmonds should get more time in a featured spot considering Conner’s injury track record, but when the latter is healthy, he will handle the bulk of the carries.


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