New Steelers RB James Conner Was One Of The Most ‘Explosive’ FBS Runners In 2016

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 2016GAttYardsAvg.TDLong1st10+20+
Donnel Pumphrey1434921336.111779905923
Aaron Jones1222917737.741783624420
James Conner1321610925.061640493219
Joe Mixon1218712746.811079533317
D’Onta Foreman1132320286.281574984916
Brian Hill1434918605.332266724316
Joe Williams921014076.71082583815
Jeremy McNichols1331417095.442380753515
Christian McCaffrey1125316036.341390693914
Dalvin Cook1328817656.131975775113
Marlon Mack1217411876.821585483012
Jamaal Williams1023413755.881262573412
Samaje Perine1019610605.411266452910
Matthew Dayes1324911664.681054552710
Elijah Hood111458585.9286240339
Kareem Hunt1326214755.63104772499
Wayne Gallman1523211334.88175948288
T.J. Logan131206505.4273533247
Leonard Fournette71298436.5387830207
Khalfani Muhammad111528275.4425045286
Elijah McGuire1323211274.8676855296
Alvin Kamara111035965.7993928195
Chris Carson9825596.8292626223
Devante Mays53725973661092
Sam Rogers13672834.22232621
Brandon Wilson1461.504000
Marquez Williams111101100
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