Tag Archives: James Conner

Patriots-Steelers Wk 1 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 5, 2019 at 9:10 am ET

The Patriots begin their 2019 regular season with a very familiar foe as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium for the first Sunday Night Football broadcast of the year. Prior to kickoff, the team will unfurl their sixth Super Bowl banner as only the Patriots and Steelers have won as many Lombardi Trophies during the SB era.

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC 10 in Boston. Al Michaels will handle the play-by-play with Cris Collinsworth doing the color commentary while Tracy Wolfson will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (11-5) are coming off last year’s Super Bowl win over the Rams after beating the Chargers at home in the divisional round and the Chiefs on the road in a dramatic overtime win.

The Steelers (9-6-1) had another late 4th quarter comeback and pulled off a dramatic 39-38 win over the Baltima disappointing 2018 where they missed the playoffs and finished second in the division to the Ravens.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 33rd time where the teams are tied 16-16 overall. Pittsburgh owns a 15-12 advantage in the regular season while the Patriots own a 4-1 advantage in the postseason. However, during the Bill Belichick era the Patriots are 11-4 against the Steelers and have won the last five meetings in Gillette Stadium. 

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Steelers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game should be a key strength of the team moving forward in 2019, as they were fifth in the NFL in rushing a year ago. Sony Michel looked strong in his only preseason cameo and is backed up by James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, fullback James Develin and rookie Damien Harris. They have depth and versatility here to be very effective. 

The offensive line took a big hit when center David Andrews was placed on IR with a blood clot in his lung. Ted Karras takes over and he’ll be a focal point in both the run game and in pass protection. Isaiah Wynn, last year’s top draft pick takes over at left tackle and will be playing in his first NFL game

The Steelers were stout against the run in 2018 finishing 6th best. It starts up front with Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, and Javon Hargrave who stop things at the point of attack which allows the linebackers to clean up and make plays. 

Look for a lot of two-back sets as the Patriots will try to move the defense around and hit them with runs between the tackles. Michel, Burkhead, and Harris should see plenty of play here. Develin will play a key role as he may line up as a TE or H-back in some of the different formations. 

Patriots WRs vs Steelers Secondary – Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

The Patriots passing game on paper looks daunting for opponents to stop. Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas have traditionally given the Steelers trouble in the past. But those two and Julian Edelman had virtually no training camp reps and very little preseason action. Their timing with Tom Brady, may not be as crisp as they want on Sunday night. Phillip Dorsett was the only WR to get a lot of time working with Brady this summer. He may see a lot of snaps here.

James White, Burkhead, and Harris may see plenty of reps in the passing game as well. This was an area that the Patriots tried to attack during the December game last year. But the Steelers defended it well holding White, Burkhead, and Develin to 10 catches for 61 yards. They are better suited now to counter those moves with rookie Devin Bush and Mark Barron who they signed from the Rams.

The Steelers led the league with 52 sacks a year ago. They are more than capable of bringing pressure right up the middle which doesn’t allow Brady to step up and slide in the pocket. This will be a key area to watch. With Joe Haden and Steven Nelson at the corner, the Pittsburgh defense can play more man coverage than the Tampa 2 zones which Brady has traditionally eviscerated, especially in Foxboro. 

Next up the Pittsburgh offense:

Steelers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Steelers replaced Le’Veon Bell with James Conner a year ago and haven’t looked back. Conner rushed for 973 yards and a dozen touchdowns in essentially 12 games and gives the offense a nice weapon running and receiving. He’s back by Jaylen Samuels who roasted the Patriots for 142 yards on the ground last December. The Pittsburgh offensive line is outstanding and always presents a tough challenge. 

The Patriots look much better prepared to stop the run this year. Danny Shelton had a very good summer. He, Lawrence Guy, and Adam Butler are the anchors inside. This allows the inside linebackers Elandon Roberts and thumper Ja’Whaun Bentley to clean up and make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. 

The Steelers were badly skewed in the run/pass ratio a year ago, running the ball on just 33.4 percent of the time while passing 66.6 percent. So, stopping the run early will be a priority and then forcing them into a more predictable pattern. 

Steelers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger lost one of the more talented wide receivers in the league in Antonio Brown and although he may not admit it, he is probably happier for it. Brown has immense talent, he’s also an immense pain in the ass. His on-field production will be missed but the Steelers have a knack at developing quality WRs.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is the team’s go-to guy, he had 1426 yards a year ago. He’s backed by Donte Moncrief, who is now their #2, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, TE Vance McDonald as well as Samuels and Conner out of the backfield. And they drafted Diontae Johnson in this spring’s draft. 

The Patriots have plenty of cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and rookie Joejuan Williams. It will be interesting to see who they match up with Smith-Schuster [Gilmore seems to be favorite], but we’ve seen in the past where they’ll put their 2nd corner on the top WR with safety help and then try to take away the #2 with their best coverage man. 

The Patriots pass rush, which was outstanding this summer is key here. They can’t allow Roethlisberger to extend plays and hit secondary targets down the field. But that offensive line won’t be an easy nut to crack.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The kickers for both teams Stephen Gostkowski for New England and Chris Boswell for the Steelers had their issues a year ago. Gostkowski had some misses in the preseason which may have been an issue with going to a new holder, rookie punter Jake Bailey.

But Gostkowski is very solid and at home gives the Patriots the edge in the kicking game. It is going to be intriguing to watch Bailey in his first NFL action. He has a tremendous leg and can flip field position which is the reason he was brought here.

The return game will feature Ryan Switzer for the Steelers while it isn’t clear if Julian Edelman or rookie Gunner Olszewski will handle punt returns for the Patriots. The UDFA looked good enough to carve out a role for himself this summer. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year, another Patriots-Steelers classic. Both teams want to start the season well, something even more important to Pittsburgh as they’ve traditionally been slow starters under Mike Tomlin. The Patriots too have started slowly in September. 

The first games of the season are always the hardest to get a feel for as no one really knows how all the pieces are going to fit together once the rubber hits the road. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Run the Ball Effectively, Especially Early: The Patriots are going to lean on the ground game and with the passing attack trying to find their feet, it is especially true early this season. The offense has to get into third and manageable situations in this game. Pittsburgh’s defense has a lot of speed and can get after the QB. Third and long situations play right into their ability to get after it. 

Therefore, Michel and Burkhead will be key players to watch in this one. If they can keep the chains moving and the defense on the field, it will slow the pass rush and possibly wear them down in the second half where conditioning may play a part. No one has played an entire game during the preseason. Then the passing game may start having more success with Brady having more time to throw. Pre-snap penalties? Last year in Pittsburgh, they had far too many…can’t have it.

Third Down Defense is Key This Week: The Patriots are going to try to take away Smith-Schuster and force Ben Roethlisberger to look elsewhere. Last year they did a pretty fair job of it, holding him to four catches for 40 yards. But with Moncrief, Washington [who had a solid game a year ago], Switzer et.al. they have a lot of weapons to bear. 

Two players to watch in this one are Vance McDonald and Samuels. It would easy to see both of them becoming very valuable third-down targets this year with Brown gone. And consequently, it will be important for the Patriots to play solidly on third down and get off the field. 

Jamie Collins is a key player to watch this week. The Patriots brought him back this spring and he’s got the ability to be a huge chess piece that they can move around and influence the play.  

Finish Drives: Against the Steelers last year, the Patriots had plenty of opportunities to put points on the board and failed to do so. After a horribly blown coverage which resulted in a way too easy and early Chris Hogan touchdown, they managed three points the rest of the way. 

Finishing drives is always important but especially against this team, as you don’t want to be playing from behind with their pass rush. Brady and Josh McDaniels will have to use the big men Gordon and Thomas [if he plays], down in the red zone to take some of the routes that Gronk ran in the past. 

___________

This one won’t be as high scoring as some people think, both teams may not be executing at the level that they will later on down the road. The Steelers may have an adjustment of their own for a bit with no Brown on the field. It should be another excellent football game between two of the best teams in the past decade. The Patriots are dropping banner #6 and hold serve at home. Patriots 24-21

“Knocking on Seven’s Door” begins Sunday night

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Patriots 2019 Opponents, First Impressions of the Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
September 3, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The NFL regular season is back. The 2019 NFL season is finally here. This is the first meaningful game for New England since the Patriots – Rams Super Bowl. Every year we begin the week with a quick overview of the Patriots opponent and this year will be no different. 

The Patriots 2019 season begins with a very familiar foe coming to Foxboro. Although the Pittsburgh Steelers reside in the AFC North, it seems like a date with Pittsburgh is slated for every year, to where the two teams are now almost in the realm of divisional opponents. With both teams being annual front-runners to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, this one will begin with the Patriots unfurling their sixth Super Bowl banner, and the only other team to have six? The Steelers.

Last year, the Steelers rode a tremendous defensive effort and the running of Jaylen Samuels, who roasted New England’s defense for 142 yards on 19 carries to down the Patriots 17-10. That was the last game that the Patriots lost, winning their final two regular-season games against Buffalo and the Jets and then winning all three playoff contests to nail down Super Bowl LIII. 

The two teams have met 32 times and the overall series is tied 16-16. The Steelers have the edge 15-12 in the regular season while the Patriots own a 4-1 advantage in the postseason. However, the vast majority of games [22] have been played in Pittsburgh. This will be just the 11th time the two teams have met in Foxboro. Since taking over the Patriots Bill Belichick is 11-4 against the Steelers while Mike Tomlin is 3-7 against the Patriots. 

So, here are our first impressions of the Steelers of 2019:

JuJu Smith-Schuster is the Unquestioned “Go-To Guy” in the Steelers Offense:

Antonio Brown is now a Raider and LaVeon Bell is a member of the Jets. While many were predicting the demise of the Steelers’ offense with those two gone, it may end up being addition by subtraction. This summer, the Steelers training camp was all about football and none of the drama that surrounded them in recent years.  

Smith-Schuster capped off a fantastic season in 2018 with 111 catches for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns. He has developed a fantastic rapport with Ben Roethlisberger and is now clearly the top receiver on the team. He received gushing praise from Bill Belichick before the game last season that was entirely warranted. 

He and Roethlisberger can work the short or deep game depending on how the defense is lining up and he’s primed to be even better in 2019. If there is any slight concern for this season, it is without Brown on the field, Smith-Schuster should now be facing the top corners for each team. While it may make his job a little bit harder, it makes the matchups that much more intriguing. 

Lining up mainly against rookie J.C. Jackson last year, the Patriots did a good job of holding him in check [4 catches for 40 yards on 10 targets], this year, it will be intriguing to see who the Patriots matchup with Smith-Schuster. Stephon Gilmore would be the obvious choice but with James Washington, Donte Moncrief, slot receiver Ryan Switzer, and Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh has a tremendous amount of speed outside. 

Look for More Balance This Year in Pittsburgh’s Offense:

With Bell now far in the rear-view mirror, the running game is now the sole responsibility of James Conner. Conner had a very solid 2018, appearing in 13 games with 12 starts and carried the ball 271 times for 973 yards [4.5 yard average per run] with 12 touchdowns. He was also targeted 71 times in the passing game and caught 55 for 497 yards and another touchdown. He missed the Patriots game but the Steelers, as we mentioned above gashed the run defense with Samuels.

The Steelers had the worst run/pass ratio in the league last year, throwing the ball on 66.6 percent of the plays and running just 33.4 percent of the offense plays. One of the things they look to do this season is to mix things up and run the ball a bit more to keep opposing defenses off balance. And Conner, entering his third season is primed to make that happen with little loss of offensive production. If anything, it should improve their offensive efficiency.

Conner while not a burner, has shown to be explosive, averaging a 20-yard run in every 24 carries and very reliable in the red zone. While Bell held out for a big dollar contract with the Jets, it was still less than what the Steelers had offered him. But in his last four years with the Steelers, Bell had 19 touchdowns. Conner had 12 last year alone. 

Devin Bush and Mark Barron Are Transforming the Middle of the Defense:

The middle of the field has been the kryptonite for the Steelers defense since Ryan Shazier was injured. But the Steelers addressed this area of their defense this spring. They picked up Mark Barron in free agency from the Rams, the 29-year old hybrid linebacker/safety is undersized but very athletic and can cover in sub-packages The Steelers gave him a two-year contract worth $12 million dollars. Then they moved up in the draft and selected Devin Bush, the linebacker from Michigan with the 10th pick in this year’s NFL Draft. 

Bush has impressed the man the Steelers were looking to replace in Shazier, who was severely injured in 2017. “You’ve seen the way he plays. He had 10 tackles in the first half (against the Buccaneers). Sometimes it’s hard for people to get 10 tackles in two games,” Shazier said.

“I think he’s going to make a lot of splash for us. He’s going to be a big-time player for us. I don’t want to put too many expectations on him but I know one of his goals is to win defensive MVP, and I want to do whatever I can to help him out. I think he’s not gonna be that far away from it. I think he’s gonna have a great year.”

They also added FA Steven Nelson from the Chiefs who should be an upgrade from Coty Sensabaugh and Artie Burns.

Having these playmakers on defense should help the one area that the defense really struggled with…turnovers. For a team that led the league in sacks, the secondary had only eight interceptions. Usually, those two things go hand in hand. But in 2018, they didn’t. By adding those two in the middle of the defense, look for Pittsburgh to force more picks this year.

Vance McDonald and Samuels Should Evolve Into Big 3rd Down Targets in 2019

With the loss of solid tight end Jesse James in free agency this year, [we were calling for the Patriots to show interest there], the Steelers aren’t deep at TE, but in Vance McDonald, the Steelers have a very good option to attack the middle of the field and get more looks in the offense now that Antonio Brown is in Oakland. 

McDonald had 50 catches last year, good for 610 yards and four touchdowns. He’s backed by blocking tight end Xavier Grimble and rookie Zach Gentry who the team picked up in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the 141st overall pick. 

McDonald and Jaylen Samuels should see a big uptick in third-down snaps this year with plenty of opportunities to increase their productivity this season. I’d look for both to get lots of looks from Roethlisberger, starting on Sunday night. 

Tuzar Skipper is the Steelers Feel Good Story of the Summer:

This summer Patriots fans got behind the efforts of UDFA Gunner Olszewski, a defensive back from tiny Div.II Bemidji State who they turned into a WR/KR. Pittsburgh fans were treated to a similar story. Tuzar Skipper was a UDFA from Toledo who went for a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs but was turned away. The Steelers invited him to tryout at their rookie minicamp and signed him to their 90-man offseason roster. 

He came into training camp at the very bottom of the depth chart but consistently impressed the coaches every day with solid play, which should also sound familiar. In his first preseason game, he registered a sack of the QB against the Buccaneers. Against the Chiefs, he added another. He finished the preseason with 5 sacks, the most in the league. 

Skipper leapfrogged several players and has earned a spot on the 53-man roster. And like Olszewski with the Patriots, he’s quickly become a fan favorite of the Steelers faithful. 

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Mock Draft 2.0 – Patriots Go Heavier on the Defense

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

After the initial mock draft we conducted, we’re back for another crack at the big board. There were big changes in this draft as the big board had changed, as we’ve mention in the past. The Patriots still have some holes to fill although they still have the flexibility in the salary cap to do just that.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is, even more, fun to use in 2017.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based on the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this second mock draft (4-13), I used the big board of Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While they may still swing a deal to move up into the first two rounds, right now we’re going with what they have. In this mock, we’re going under the assumption that Malcolm Butler will sign his tender and play in NE for at least the 2017 season, so that changes our outlook considerably.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Patriots Get Defensive:

Round 3, Pick #72 Linebacker/Edge Ryan Anderson, Alabama:
No change from Mock 1.0, Anderson will be a Day 1 starter at the SAM linebacker position next to Dont’a Hightower. Coming from a championship football program at Alabama with Bill Belichick’s buddy Nick Saban and playing in a similar system means his learning curve will be an easy one.

He’s consistently as good setting the edge against the run as he is against the pass in coverage. He’s also a good pass rusher and can blitz off the edge with good pass rush moves and a power bull rush. He’s also a very good STs player something Belichick loves in his linebackers. Day 1 starter.

To see our draft profile on him click here:

Round 3, Pick #96 Edge Joe Mathis, Washington:
The Patriots get a possible steal at defensive end with Mathis who was coming into his own when he injured his foot that required surgery after just six games for the Huskies in the 2016 season. In those six games, Mathis garnered 25 tackles, five sacks and a pass defensed in his final season.

He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game and has the hands, strength, and quickness to come off the edge and put pressure on the quarterback. Limited tape due to his injury will push him down the board…and right to New England.

Round 4, Pick #141 RB James Conner, Pittsburgh:
Conner is another steal for the Patriots as he’s had to battle back from a torn ACL and cancer specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2015. He returned in 2016 and gained more than 1000 yards with a 5.1-yard average and 16 touchdowns.

He’s got tremendous size at 6’1, 233-pounds and will move the pile in short yardage and on the goal line. He’s a punishing runner that runs low, hard and gets yards after contact.

Conner’s draft profile from us can be seen here:

Round 5, Pick #163 TE Jonnu Smith, Florida International:
Smith is a move TE at 6’3, 248-pounds but has shown the willingness and strength to block in the running game. Smith has the ability to work all three levels of the field. He has the speed to run right by linebackers in coverage. Had 42 catches for 506 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.

He good with the ball in his hands and can make plenty of YAC (yards after the catch). He has loose hips and possesses good lateral movement but has to work on his hands. He’s had 10 drops the least two seasons.

Round 5, Pick #183 WR Fred Ross, Mississippi State:
Ross nicknamed “the Boss” was a favorite target of Dak Prescott before he moved on to the Cowboys last season. Ross has been heavily scouted by the Patriots and although he missed Prescott still put up good numbers in 2016, 72 catches, 917 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

He doesn’t possess great top-end speed and has far too many drops (8 in 2016), but he uses his body well to block out defenders. He’ll fight for position when the ball is in the air and offers good punt return capability, something that may earn him a roster spot. With the WR position stacked in New England, that may be just what he needs to stick.

Round 6, Pick #200 S Nathan Gerry, Nebraska:
Gerry is an in-the-box safety that is very solidly built at 6’2, 218-pounds. He was named third team All-Big Ten with 68 tackles, 5.5 for loss, four interceptions and eight pass breakups. He has very good instincts with both the run and the pass.

He’s limited athletically however and despite having decent straight-line speed with 4.58 in the 40 Yard Dash, he doesn’t have the agility to be a deep cover safety. He’d be placed in the role that Pat Chung has excelled in as a box safety, patrolling close to the line of scrimmage.

Round 7, Pick #231 DL Stevie Tui’kolovatu, USC:
Tui’kolovatu is an overaged prospect (26), due to a two-year commitment with his church in the Philippines. He played at Utah for a couple of years but left for USC and more playing time in his final season.

He’s a nose guard at 6’1, 331-pounds and can eat double teams in the running game which allow the linebackers to stay to unblocked to make plays. He’s got a wide stance and is very difficult to move off his spot. On a two-down player but he can be the long-term answer to Alan Branch. He’d be a nice addition to the rotation inside

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New England Patriots Draft Profile Pitt RB James Conner

Steve Balestrieri
April 3, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Inspirational Player Can’t Be Held Down

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots’ offense needs a big bodied power running back to replace free agent LeGarrette Blount. He was terrific in 2016 rushing for over 1100 yards and a league leading 18 touchdowns but he’s 30 years old now, a time when big backs begin to break down. He slowed considerably down the stretch.

The team could use a younger, upgrade at the big, physical back position, someone that can move the chains on third down. Get the tough yards in goal line situations and act as a closer late in contests when the game is in hand.

The Patriots have a slew of pass receiving backs, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and D.J. Foster. While all of them can catch the ball out of the backfield, they are not the big, physical downhill style runners they need to move the chains.

James Conner from Pitt is exactly the kind of player that would fit the bill in a matter of speaking. Bill Belichick loves players like him, he’s an inspiration to his teammates. He injured his ACL in 2015, and while doctors were treating that, they came across cancer, specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma which he took on at the same time.

As a result, he won the Disney Spirit Award and ACC Brian Piccolo Award as well as first team all-conference honors in 2016. He rushed 216 times for 1092 yards (5.1-yard average) with 16 touchdowns for the Panthers. He added 21 receptions for 302 yards for four more scores.

Conner has tremendous size at 6’1, 233-pounds and is extremely tough and will not be brought down with arm tackles. He lowers his head and punishes would-be tacklers on contact. He is extremely strong on the lower half of his body and when running between the tackles, especially in short yardage or the goal line, he doesn’t need a hole, he’ll make one.

However, he doesn’t have great top-end speed and will struggle at times turning the corner when running to the outside. He has good balance and can make the first man miss while possessing an excellent stiff arm to jolt tacklers and break free. He’s a good, willing pass blocker and shows decent production coming out of the backfield in the passing game with good hands.

Pros:

– Tremendous size, extremely strong

– Very good vision, instincts

– Runs hard, low and gets yards after contact

– Punishing runner, outstanding in short yardage

Cons

– Medical questions will follow him after ACL, cancer treatment

– Not a breakaway threat and doesn’t possess great top end speed

– Runs a little stiff in his hips

What his Role Will Be:
Conner’s role will be as the Patriots big, physical, move-the-pile back. He’d take over the Blount role, especially as a red zone, goal line back. He’ll be part of the rotation on early downs and as situations dictate.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved production as he becomes more familiar with the offense, and in the passing game, he could see his role increase.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
LaGarrette Blount, and/or Brandon Bolden.

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Conner, if he can keep a clean bill of health is going to be a very productive, physical back in the NFL. He’s the type of guy who may not wow you for three-quarters but in the fourth quarter, he can wear down teams and punish them with a battering ram style of running. He’ll be the designated closer when the team is ahead.

He has decent but not great lateral movement but will be an excellent inside runner between the tackles showing great size, strength, and power. He has a tremendous heart with a work ethic to match that will make him a favorite of his coaches.

For a big man, he’s more quick than fast but running the ball inside, if he gets to the line untouched, he’s going to bull his way for yardage. Conner has shown the ability to protect the quarterback in pass blocking and is an underrated receiver out of the backfield. It is something that he can improve upon as he gets more familiar with the offense.

Conner is a punisher while running inside between the tackles, he would be a tremendous fit for the Patriots offense. With a large stable of pass receiving backs, he’d be the bell cow at when the game needs to be closed out.

Conner can come in and contribute in a big way on Day1 as the “big back” with their offense. He’s slated to be available in second and third round range. If he is available when the Patriots are on the clock with the 72nd pick, then he’d be a great choice to bolster the running game. With the plethora of weapons already in place in the passing game, Conner would be an ideal choice to be the move-the-chains and to punch it in from inside the five-yard line. He’s a Patriots type of player, an inspirational, team captain that will fit seamlessly into the locker room with his teammates.

Conner’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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