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Fantasy Football: Deciphering the Arizona Cardinals Intriguing Backfield for 2021

Many people were excited for Chase Edmonds to grab the keys to the backfield when the Arizona Cardinals let Kenyan Drake walk in free agency. Now they have signed former Pro Bowl RB James Conner and made a slightly messy situation in the backfield for fantasy football managers. Will you be able to trust either of them on your fantasy football rosters for 2021? Let’s find out!

Athletic Comparison

Edmonds and Conner are two completely different backs, Conner profiles as a workhorse while Edmonds is more of an explosive third-down/ pass-catching back. Conner is 6’1″ 233lbs and not the most explosive athlete running a 4.65 forty-yard dash for a 64th percentile weight-adjusted speed score. His burst and agility scores were not great but he did dominate in college with a dominator rating in the 80th percentile for the University of Pittsburgh.

Edmonds is shorter but still has decent size at 5’9″ 205lbs. He ran a 4.55 forty-yard dash for a 47th percentile weight-adjusted speed score, had an average burst score, but his agility score was elite in the 97th percentile. Edmonds also had a high college dominator score in the 79th percentile showing that both of these players could be productive. He did however play at Fordham where the level of competition was obviously lesser than the ACC.

As a pure athlete, Edmonds probably gets the edge here especially after all of the injuries Conner has sustained in his career. Conner’s average speed and low agility and burst scores have not quite hurt his production as he has been productive when healthy.

Chase Edmonds NFL/ Fantasy Football Production

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CINCINNATI, OHIO – OCTOBER 06: Chase Edmonds #29 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after his touchdown during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in October 06, 2019, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)

Chase Edmonds didn’t do much in the NFL until last year. For fantasy football, he averaged 10.5 fantasy points per game with two games over 20 fantasy points, showing a good ceiling. He finished as the RB25 on the year but was 33rd in fantasy points per game. A lot of his production came from his receiving work increasing his stock in PPR leagues.

Chase Edmonds advanced rushing statistics were solid. He had a 5.2% breakaway run percentage which is close to Conner and if he breaks a run he has more speed to take it to the house. In 2020 he had 10 broken tackles on rushes which is good for 9.7 attempts per broken tackle slightly more than Conner. His juke rate was a bit lower than Conner’s though at only 16%. He only faced a stacked box 10.3% of the time (60th in the NFL).

Edmonds had the most productive year of his three-year career in 2020 carrying the ball 97 times for 448 yards and one TD while adding 53 receptions on 67 targets for 402 yards and four TDs. He had the pleasure of running behind NFL.com’s fourth-ranked run-blocking offensive line. This and his carry rate against light fronts on 67% of his carries (third in the NFL) helped him to finish with a solid 4.6 yards per carry. Edmonds only started two games and still was a decent producer for fantasy as a third-down/pass-catching running back.

James Conner NFL/ Fantasy Football Production

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PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 02: James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

James Conner started out as the backup to Le’veon Bell in 2017 seeing little action and was then thrust into action for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 with Bell deciding to hold out. Conner did not disappoint for fantasy football managers that took the shot on the young RB in drafts. Conner finished with 21.5 fantasy points per game that year. He has not hit this mark since then but has consistently put up double-digit points per game for fantasy football since then with 14.6 in 2019 and 12.7 in 2020. Conner has nine double-digit fantasy games in 2020 with two games over 20 points in just 13 games. Conner was also 125th in PPR fantasy points per game while finishing as the RB 27.

Conner’s career year in 2018 he rushed for 973 yards on 215 carries for 12 TDs (4.5 yards per carry) while adding 497 yards through the air on 55 receptions with 1 TD. After this year people were sold that Conner was a breakout player/ fantasy football stud and would continue to ascend. This was hindered by two injury-plagued years.

In 2020 James Conner was honestly much better than most people give him credit for. Conner rushed the ball 169 times for 721 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and six TDs receiving 43 targets for 35 receptions and 215 yards. These numbers are modest as most people see the Steelers as a running team, however, the Steelers had the 31st ranked run-blocking offensive line. Conner put up two yards after contact per carry and had 17 broken tackles.

This is one broken tackle per 9.9 carries which is the best of his career! He also had a 5.3% breakaway run percentage which was 10th in the league. This is surprising for a player with his athletic measurables. He even had a juke rate of 25.5% which is good for 15th in the league.

James Conner saw a stacked box 27.8% of the time good for 19th in the league and hardly ever faced light fronts. His percentage of carries vs a light front was 31st in the NFL. This makes his numbers much more impressive than Chase Edmonds’s numbers.

Fantasy Football and NFL Team Opportunity

The Arizona Cardinals are a team on the rise, and their offense is one of the tops in the league! They have the firepower to produce multiple fantasy football relevant players. The Cardinals ranked sixth in total offense in 2020. The Cardinals also brought Conner in to presumably somewhat replace Kenyan Drake’s production. Drake rushed the ball 239 times which frees up a ton of carries now that he has moved on to the Las Vegas Raiders. He also received 57 red zone opportunities (4th in the NFL) and 19 goal-line carries (2nd in the NFL). This shows that they like to use their backs near the goal line even though Kyler Murray will take some of that work.

James Conner did not even receive this volume on the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2020 he received 31 red zone touches (22nd in the league) and eight goal-line carries (14th in the NFL). Conner is a big back who is tough to bring down with good vision who will at least fill the first and second down role. This does not mean that Chase Edmonds has no value as Conner has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, making Edmonds a very high-end handcuff with standalone value, especially in PPR fantasy football leagues.

Chase Edmonds should see at least some uptick in usage in 2021 even with the Conner signing. They signed Conner to a very cheap deal one-year deal ($1.75 million) so he is by no means guaranteed the job. Edmonds also proved his value last season with his career year. Even if Conner somehow stays healthy during the 2021 season Edmonds figures to receive the bulk of the passing down work and could put up high-end RB3 numbers to low-end RB2 numbers.

Dynasty Fantasy Football Value

These two RBs are valued much differently. In startups, Edmonds is going around pick 73 overall and you can grab Conner 50 picks later at pick 123. Conner is no sure thing but neither is Edmonds. Conner should see the goal line work and could be good depth on dynasty fantasy football rosters. Conner is also much cheaper in trades.

Recent trades for James Conner:

  • Jakobi Meyers for James Conner

  • 2021 3.12 for James Conner

  • Henry Ruggs for James Conner and the 2021 2.05

Then recent trades for Chase Edmonds per DLF:

  • David Montgomery for Chase Edmonds

  • Hollywood Brown for Chase Edmonds

  • 2021 3.04, 3.10, and 3.11 for Chase Edmonds

  • 2021 2.04 for Chase Edmonds and the 2021 3.09

  • Sammy Watkins, Tyler Conklin, and the 2021 2.03 for Chase Edmonds

I do realize the potential for both players but I will take the cheaper option who is proven, when healthy, in the NFL. I do know Conner is coming off of foot surgery but he should be good to go by training camp.


In conclusion, Conner is probably the back to own here, but depending on where you can get him it may be worth grabbing them both. In redraft, I would imagine you could grab James Conner in the fifth or sixth round. For a back that may have the starting role on a high-end offense with plenty of scoring opportunities, that is an extreme value. Edmonds may also have value as a pass-catching satellite back and a high-end handcuff as mentioned before. The Cardinals will be a fun offense to watch in 2021, and their run game should not skip a beat with Kenyan Drake now with the Las Vegas Raiders.

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA – AUGUST 08: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the field during the NFL preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019, in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 17-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Thank you for reading my article on Deciphering the Arizona Cardinals backfield for fantasy football. Who are you taking in your fantasy football leagues this year? Go check out the Overtime Heroics Twitter page here, the Overtime Heroics Football Twitter page here, go to OvertimeHeroics.net for all your sports needs and don’t forget to follow me for more offseason fantasy football content at @FF_Schmuck.

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