USA TODAY Sports photo of Steelers RB James Conner
USA TODAY Sports photo of Steelers RB James Conner

If James Conner never played a down in the NFL, he'd be a great story.

The Steelers' second-year back selected in the third round a year ago in an outstanding RB class by his hometown team overcame a torn MCL and Hodgkin's Lymphoma ... in the same year. He returned with a vengeance to the Panthers in 2016, amassing nearly 1,400 yards from scimmage and 20 touchdowns en route to being the 105th overall pick the following spring.

After a quiet rookie campaign backing up the NFL's busiest (and best?) back, Conner suddenly has been thrust into the Week 1 starting gig with Le'Veon Bell nowhere to be found. Some stories write themselves, but this one is almost too good to be true for Conner. Still, as fantasy football players, we must avoid the temptation to let Conner's story cloud our judgment.

His first-ever start comes against Cleveland, which was top 10 in Pro Football Outsiders' DVOA run 'D' a year ago and paced the NFL in points allowed this preseason. The Browns might not be good this season, but in going from 2017 turnover leader DeShone Kizer to risk-averse Tyrod Taylor, they aren't likely to regularly get blown out and offer weekly enticing game scripts for opposing backs.

Conner, in addition to being a tremendous story, is a back with unique size and strength, not unlike Bell. He showed vast improvement from his first to second preseason. But he isn't Bell. And he shouldn't be viewed as someone who'll plug in seamlessly — to the Steelers offense or your fantasy lineups. Root aggressively for Conner but set your fantasy expectations for him conservatively, at least for now.

1. Todd Gurley, Rams at Raiders

2. David Johnson, Cardinals vs. Washington

3. Melvin Gordon, Chargers vs. Chiefs

4. Alvin Kamara, Saints vs. Buccaneers

5. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars at Giants

6. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs at Chargers

7. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys at Panthers

8. Joe Mixon, Bengals at Colts

9. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers vs. Cowboys

10. Jordan Howard, Bears at Packers

11. Alex Collins, Ravens vs. Bills

12. Saquon Barkley, Giants vs. Jaguars

13. Jay Ajayi, Eagles vs. Falcons

14. Derrick Henry, Titans at Dolphins

15. Devonta Freeman, Falcons at Eagles

16. Rex Burkhead, Patriots vs. Texans

17. Lamar Miller, Texans at Patriots

18. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders vs. Rams

19. Dalvin Cook, Vikings vs. 49ers

20. Jamaal Williams, Packers vs. Bears

21. Kenyan Drake, Dolphins vs. Titans

22. Dion Lewis, Titans at Dolphins

23. LeSean McCoy, Bills at Ravens

24. Carlos Hyde, Browns at Steelers

25. James Conner, Steelers vs. Browns

26. Alfred Morris, 49ers at Vikings

27. James White, Patriots vs. Texans

28. Chris Thompson, Washington at Cardinals

29. Tevin Coleman, Falcons at Eagles

30. Royce Freeman, Broncos vs. Seahawks

31. Chris Carson, Seahawks at Broncos

32. Bilal Powell, Jets at Lions

33. Peyton Barber, Buccaneers at Saints

34. Latavius Murray, Vikings vs. 49ers

35. Adrian Peterson, Washington at Cardinals

36. Ty Montgomery, Packers vs. Bears

37. Duke Johnson, Browns at Steelers

38. Kerryon Johnson, Lions vs. Jets

39. Corey Clement, Eagles vs. Falcons

40. LeGarrette Blount, Lions vs. Jets

41. Christine Michael, Colts vs. Bengals

42. Austin Ekeler, Chargers vs. Chiefs

43. Jordan Wilkins, Colts vs. Bengals

44. Mike Gillislee, Saints vs. Buccaneers

45. Sony Michel, Patriots vs. Texans

46. Theo Riddick, Lions vs. Jets

47. Frank Gore, Dolphins vs. Titans

48. Javorious Allen, Ravens vs. Bills

49. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks at Broncos

50. Nyheim Hines, Colts vs. Bengals