Phillip Lindsay: Undrafted Hero
2018 has started as a retooling of sorts for the Denver Broncos. After a very disappointing year in 2017 mainly due to the quarterback play and an aging defense, John Elway decided to shake up the roster a bit. Aqib Talib and Trevor Siemian were traded, C.J. Anderson was released and the Broncos seemed to be taking a bit of a younger direction. Case Keenum was signed, who’s a fine temporary fix and all signs were that Elway was trying to move up the the 2nd overall pick in the draft for Baker Mayfield. We all know how the draft went now, with Baker going first overall to the Cleveland Browns and Sam Darnold getting drafted third overall to the New York Jets.
After missing the two players who were considered the top quarterbacks in the draft by most analysts then, missing out on Saquon Barkley as well the Broncos took Bradley Chubb fifth overall. Although they may not have landed their future cornerstone quarterback, they did draft a running back at the seventh pick of the third round who instantly received hype, Royce Freeman. Freeman was a player who’s stock had been rising a considerable amount since the NFL Combine and was a player who many fans intrigued by his power in a compact frame. His 4.54 second time on the 40 yard dash helped his stock a little, but he was one of many names in a fairly deep running back class.
After the draft, there are always hundreds of players who get signed as undrafted free agents trying to keep their NFL hopes alive. One of the undrafted players signed this offseason by the Broncos was former University of Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay was signed as a local player who could add depth behind Freeman and Devontae Booker as mainly a special teams player. At Colorado’s combine though, Lindsay ran a 4.39 forty yard dash which would have been the second best time behind only Nyheim Hines’ 4.38. At Colorado, Lindsay was known for being very durable, playing larder than his size, and being a great clubhouse guy. Lindsay was overlooked due to his size, but in heign sight teams should have done more work scouting the player. In his four season at Colorado, he increased his workload every season. In Lindsay’s final two seasons at Colorado he had compiled 2,726 yards on 545 carries for a solid 5.0 yards per carry average and 30 touchdowns. However, he had also compiled 117 catches for 1,084 yards and 3 touchdowns over his four seasons in Colorado. Lindsay was also constantly returning punts and kickoffs as well, at Colorado he was a swiss army knife of sorts.
Throughout training camp reports of Lindsay being used started to surface, and personally I bought in but I expected it just to be the old Booker role. To my surprise however, Lindsay logged a 35% offensive snap percentage, just 4% below that of Royce Freeman who was given the start. In week 2, Freeman was given the start again but only logged a 24% snap share due to the Broncos being down 0-12 at the end of the first half to Oakland. Although the Broncos came back and won the game 20-19 the most surprising stat of the day was Lindsay’s 42% share of the offensive snaps. Week 3 it was reversed and it was an all Freeman (43%) and Booker (38%) show when Lindsay was ejected but in week 4 Lindsay got back to a 40% share. Here at the end of week 8 of the NFL season, Phillip Lindsay leads the Broncos in: offensive snaps with 36.8% of all offensive snaps, rushing yards 531, and yards per attempt 5.7. Although Royce Freeman has been okay, he’s looked like a carbon copy of C.J. Anderson this season, which seems to be a play style the Broncos staff are trying to move away from.
Whether Lindsay is going to be an RB1 long term or not isn’t important for his value. He’s being used enough between the tackles while being an outsize zone runner to maintain value long term in the Denver offense. Although Booker is under team control through 2019, next year should be an all Lindsay and Freeman backfield like the Lewis & Henry situation in Tennessee. Lindsay is someone worth a late 1st round grade on right now, and his offensive shares should only increase with Denver trailing most weeks. He has shown a ton of growth this season, and even more grit. If you ask me, he’s the running back to own in the Broncos backfield and will be for the next few seasons. Buy him before his price is too much to stomach.