The question of is James Conner playing has been frustrating fantasy football managers since Week 5 of the 2022 NFL season. As he continues to deal with the issue with his ribs, the Arizona Cardinals’ RB is a game-time decision in Week 9 for the second time in three weeks.
Let’s take a look at the latest update regarding Conner’s status in Week 9 and the fantasy implications for Eno Benjamin this week.
Is James Conner Playing Today?
On Saturday evening, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Cardinals are hopeful Conner can suit up in Week 9. However, Fowler also added that the Cardinals will make the final decision after he works out in the pre-game. Therefore, we will potentially have to wait until inactives are announced to find out for sure if Conner is active.
Conner was limited all week in practice, which is significant after he suffered somewhat of a setback at the end of Week 8. Conner was able to be a game-time decision back in Week 7, so there was hope he would return last week. However, he was absent from practice that Friday, leading to him being ruled out.
With Conner now in line to potentially suit up in Week 9, it confuses the picture somewhat with the Cardinals’ backfield. In his absence, Eno Benjamin had established himself as a season-long fantasy option, as well as someone that could be utilized in the various game-play options available on Underdog Fantasy.
After averaging 12 rushing attempts and five targets per game in the past three weeks, let’s examine how Conner’s return could potentially impact Benjamin’s fantasy value.
How Should Fantasy Managers Approach Conner and Eno Benjamin in Week 9?
The matchup this week for the Cardinals against the Seattle Seahawks is intriguing. Seattle has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to the RB position this year, at 22.34 points in half-PPR scoring.
In five of the eight games this year, the Seahawks have allowed more than 20 fantasy points to RBs. Additionally, they’ve allowed more than 30 fantasy points to the position in two of the past five weeks. So there is certainly the potential for Arizona’s backs to have success today, whether one or both of them is active.
However, it was against the Cardinals that the Seahawks’ defense had their best day against opposing RBs. In their Week 6 encounter, Seattle held Arizona’s RBs to just 8.7 fantasy points in total.
Conner’s start to the season was confusing. Through the first five games, he averaged 10.8 rushing attempts and 3.8 targets per game. However, that number was somewhat depressed by his leaving the games in Weeks 2 and 5 with an injury. If you just consider the games where he played more than 50% of the snaps, then those averages rise to 12.7 rushing attempts and 4.7 targets per game.
The fact we are talking about excluding two games from Conner’s averages due to injury tells its own story. The Cardinals RB has really struggled with injury issues this year, making him tough to trust. Therefore, with Conner entering the game as a game-time decision, combined with these injury concerns, it’s tough to trust him having a significant workload this week.
MORE: Week 9 Half-PPR Fantasy Football Rankings
The big question is whether Conner being active has an impact on Benjamin’s fantasy upside. In Conner’s absence, Benjamin has averaged 12 rushing attempts and five targets per game. However, he hasn’t always been a reliable fantasy option in that stretch, with just one game in that span of over 10 fantasy points.
With Conner out, we’ve still seen Benjamin splitting work. In Weeks 6 and 7, it was Keaontay Ingram who had 12 combined rushing attempts and two targets. Meanwhile, in Week 8, it was Darrel Williams who had five rushing attempts and three targets. If the Cardinals want to ease Conner back in, they could put him in that role, seeing between 5-10 touches to Benjamin’s 15-20.
Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how this will split, making it tough to trust either. The fact that we know Conner has historically been the goal-line back for the Cardinals gives him the best ceiling. With this in mind, he sits as the RB23 in Tommy Garrett’s Week 9 RB fantasy rankings. Meanwhile, Benjamin is down at RB42 as it stands.
If Conner is inactive, then Benjamin would realistically jump into Flex consideration for 12-team leagues. However, the problem is that with this being a late-afternoon matchup, the decision may need to be made earlier. It might be prudent for fantasy managers to consider sitting Benjamin this week, unless they have other late-afternoon or prime-time options they could look to if Conner is active.