Just notifying the Regional Scouts who've already submitted their reports - @twfish - and the Senior Scout - @Superman on the James Connor write-up.
On the outset, I didn’t’ account for his health issues in the scoring. Just what I saw on tape. I don’t know what the score indicates as far as round projection (Superman, feel free to edit), so I just put a guestimate on it. I watched all 2016 tape available on draftbreakdown.com and Georgia Tech from 2014.
Size: 6’1”, 233 lbs, good lean mass throughout his lower body and upper body. Big hands, but length, while not a red flag, both legs and arms are a bit less than ideal. I prefer my backs closer the the 5’11” mark, but he is well within the ideal height/weight range for his position. 4.5/5
Athleticism: Lateral agility is lacking, if not outright poor. Cuts are subtle, but don’t really fool anyone, which is obvious given that his shtick is breaking tackles and it really shows up on tape. He can make people miss at the 2nd level, but only if he gets to it unscathed, even then, he’s less likely to juke the further he stretches the play. He builds up to speed and won’t be able to sustain long runs. His lack of explosiveness and top end speed will limit his overall utility. 3/10
Vision: Generally takes what’s there and relies on physicality to bring him any extra. He will miss an occasional cutback or read. While he generally gets to where he needs to be, I don’t really ever see him create many yards for himself outside of his physicality. I don’t see him ever making it outside of special teams in a zone based team. In a more power oriented scheme, he sees the field well enough to work out tough yards, and would otherwise benefit with little read responsibilities where he has predetermined running lanes, such as goalline, short yardage situations. 5/10
3rd down ability: Little work as a receiver, but there’s a usable foundation there. It’s limited entirely by his athletic ability, but he does catch the ball well enough to warrant an occasional screen or even swing pass to keep defenses honest. He’s got the physicality required to be a blocker but very little technique whatsoever. He doesn’t break down with a wide base, but he does have a strong punch to divert incoming linebackers. His arm length is on the short side. That said, he’s got the frame and strength to work into a blockers role. 2/5 receiving, 3/5 blocking -- 5/10
Balance: Probably his second best trait. His balance in and out of cuts are good, but his athleticism limits the intensity of his cuts. He can push through and navigate traffic in tight quarters without being easily knocked off track – that is, if he doesn’t elect to go full on bull in a china shop and batter into everything in front of him. He can fight through congested lanes and is capable of taking chunks of yardage, but without any real short area burst or second gear, the opposition will eventually slow him down before he ever sees daylight. Can withstand substantial hits before finally being taken down. 7/10
Physicality: His marquee trait. Has excellent bend and plays behind his pads. While he’s not explosive in the open field, he’s explosive at the point of contact and he won’t lose many one-on-one mashups. To plagiarize NFL.com for one line I couldn’t have said better myself, “arm tackles are a waste of time.” He will need to be gang tackled or hit head on to be slowed just enough for the cavalry to come in. Doable for any team, but he’ll at least drag out tough yards in the meantime. That same toughness shows up in his pass blocking (to say nothing about his ability to block). Does not care about his body at the goal line and if he smells paydirt, he’s not not getting in because of lack of determination. 8.5/10
Improvisation: Plus spin move, powerful stiff arm, and can deliver a blow for extra yardage. He’s got a functional stutter step, but he doesn’t explode out of it so its utility is in doubt. Cuts are inconsistent – I see flashes that make me think maybe he could be more than a straight line back, and then still others that are aggressively mediocre. 4/10
Ball control: I saw only 1 fumble against Penn State (there was a second, but ground caused it so I’m not holding that against him). 1 other fumble against GT. Stats bear 7 fumbles with 6 lost in 698 touches – good but not great. 7/10
Overall: 44/75, 58.67%. I don’t know what round this score indicates (cue the jr. scout jokes), but I see 5th round-ish prospect. He’s likely be a system dependent, goal line and/or situational running back depending on how he develops.
Best fit is with a team that uses him to his strengths because his most glaring weaknesses are traits that can’t be overcome with sheer determination – athleticism, in particular. He’s also got some health issues Hodkins lymphoma and a torn MCL in 2015 – which he appears to have overcome, but I’m no doctor. I didn’t knock his score for it, but if I’m being generous it probably knocks him a round lower than whatever his score indicates.
Re: special teams – I didn’t see any returns and the stats don’t bear any out. He shouldn’t be returning anything anyway. He could get involved in protection or perhaps coverage, and he should probably get comfortable with it ASAP.
If he can just find a way to make it onto the final 53 and keep healthy, he’ll have a shot in this league to carve out a limited role because he is a tireless worker and he’s a guy that can win coaches over with his work ethic; provided he “gets it” at the NFL level. I really did like watching the kid play and it’s easy to see he respects the game (and he’s respected by others, including opponents).
He is a “horseshoe guy” in my mind, no doubt. Given the mentality of some of the guys Ballard’s signed, I could easily see us taking James Conner on Day 3. I do doubt, though, that he’d make it on this team because I don’t’ think he’s a strong fit schematically. So the only way we would take a guy like Conner is if we have a set plan for how we’d use him in advance and work on developing him in the meantime.