Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner returned from injury in Week 18 against the Seattle Seahawks. He then injured his ribs during that game, making him questionable for Arizona’s Wild Card round matchup. Chase Edmonds and Jonathan Ward are two more running backs dealing with injuries, resulting in plenty of question marks for the Cardinals backfield. Will Conner play against the Los Angeles Rams this week, and what can fantasy football managers expect from this situation?
Update 01/17/22: Cardinals RB James Conner is officially active for tonight’s game against the Rams. To see what you should do with Conner in DFS, make sure to check out our Arizona backfield DFS piece.
James Conner’s 2021 production
Conner has enjoyed an outstanding season for Arizona in 2021. He posted 752 yards and 15 touchdowns on 202 carries over 15 games. He added 37 receptions for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns on 39 targets. Conner isn’t an ultra-efficient runner, as he’s averaging only 3.7 yards per carry this season. However, he’s extremely efficient through the air with a 94.9% catch rate and 10.1 yards per reception.
Conner has been an elite touchdown scorer, recording 18 over only 15 games. He posted 2+ touchdowns in five of those contests. Surprisingly, Conner failed to record 100+ rushing or receiving yards in any given game. With that said, he produced 95 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries in Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers. He also added 77 yards and 1 touchdown on 5 receptions in that game.
How would Conner’s absence affect the Cardinals’ offense?
If Conner is ruled out, Edmonds will take over a workhorse role for the Cardinals. He’s a versatile running back, and he’s seen a massive role in recent games. Edmonds generated 109 yards and 1 touchdown on 34 carries over his last two games. He also posted 13 receptions for 100 yards on 15 targets in those games.
There are injury questions with Ward this week, but he isn’t likely to find a big role with Edmonds and Eno Benjamin active. If Conner is out this weekend, Edmonds would play a bell-cow role, with Benjamin finding a few touches as well.
Will Conner play vs. the Rams this week?
Conner has struggled throughout the season with injuries. He missed weeks 16 and 17 with a heel injury before suffering a rib issue against the Seattle Seahawks in his return in Week 18. Conner was initially labeled questionable to return in that game, but he didn’t.
He wasn’t able to practice on Thursday or Friday for Arizona. After missing two consecutive sessions, Conner practiced on a limited basis on Saturday.
He is listed as questionable for this Monday, although getting work in during any practice is an encouraging sign. Yet, Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Conner would be a true game-time decision this weekend, and he could be ruled in or out 90 minutes before the game starts.
Are fantasy points available vs. Los Angeles?
This will be a tough matchup for any of the Arizona running backs. Los Angeles is only allowing 16.3 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
Nevertheless, Conner has looked excellent against the Rams in two matchups this season. Against Los Angeles, he has posted 81 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. He also recorded 11 receptions for 110 yards on 11 targets.
Although the matchup is difficult, the Cardinals have proven that their RBs can find success in this game, as Edmonds also performed well in his only game against them. Conner is touchdown-dependent, but he does come with quite a bit of upside because of his role in the offense.