Phillip Lindsay had a breakout season in 2018 as a rookie, but can he maintain that level of production in 2019? Will the undrafted second-year running back out of Colorado be the focal point for the Denver Broncos run game once again this season? And, where should Lindsay be drafted in fantasy football drafts this summer? In the hunt for answers, I sorted through all of the news reports, statistics, and other metrics. Here’s what I found.
Phillip Lindsay 2019 Fantasy Football Outlook
In 2018, Lindsay was phenomenal on a per touch basis and overall on the season. Lindsay, even though he was splitting carries most of the season with Royce Freeman, was able to compile 1,278 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns. Lindsay was incredibly efficient with his touches, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and converting on 75 percent of his pass targets. He was efficient with his red zone opportunities also, converting five out of six carries inside the five-yard line for touchdowns.
While his highly efficient efforts in 2018 were impressive, Lindsay seems destined for some per-touch regression in 2019. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that his overall numbers for the season will suffer. If Lindsay is afforded the lion’s share of the running back opportunities in the Denver backfield, there’s a chance that increased opportunities could make up for any decrease in efficiency. That being said, the Broncos are going to give Freeman some snaps. The question that we need to answer is, how many snaps?
If you believe that it is the Broncos intention to maintain a similar snap-share between Lindsay and Freeman this year, as compared to last season, then I would worry that Lindsay might regress. After all, Lindsay is a 5’7”, 185 pounder with a SPARQ-x score 104.5 (30th). That’s a bit on the low-side, so buyer beware. On the other hand, if you are of the mindset that the Broncos are going to use Lindsay in more of a featured running back role, then your concern may be somewhat quelled. After all, Alvin Kamara only has a SPARQ-x score 106.8 (37th) so while metrics are useful, we do need to take them with a grain of salt and make sure to look at the whole player.
Let’s look at the difference in Lindsay’s usage from the beginning of last season to his usage towards the end of the season. This can give us an idea of what kind of snap-share we can expect for Lindsay in 2019. In weeks one through seven of the 2018 season, Lindsay averaged 10.7 carries and 2.8 targets per game. However, in games nine through 16 of the 2018 season, Lindsay averaged 14.1 carries and 3.4 targets per game.
Judging by the increase in usage for Lindsay in the second half of the season we can assume that he beat out Freeman for the lead-back duties. That should lead to an uptick in volume for the second-year back in 2019, giving him the chance for more production or at least a better chance for similar production to last year. I suspect that Lindsay’s 2019 per game workload will be similar to what he saw in weeks nine through 16 last season, around 14 carries and 3.5 catches per game. That works out to 224 carries and 56 catches for the season, assuming that he plays all 16 games. Which, isn’t necessarily a safe assumption. [Statistics and metrics found at Player Profiler]
Curb Your Enthusiasm for Phillip Lindsay in 2019
At around 5’7″ and 185 pounds, Lindsay is not your prototypical every-down NFL running back, yet he’s been able to break the mold and work his way into a prominent role for the Broncos. Lindsay’s current fantasy football ADP is 40th overall according to [Fantasy Football Calculator]. While I’d be hesitant to pull the trigger on Lindsay at that spot, I would be comfortable drafting him later in round four or early in round five.
Lindsay is still recovering from off-season wrist surgery. This could be a big deal for a running back. Wrist injuries can take a while to heal, just ask David Johnson. Johnson suffered a wrist injury in the first game of the 2017 season and had to sit out the rest of the year. There’s no guarantee that Lindsay will be fully healed by the start of the season so his participation in minicamp and training camp should be monitored closely. Also, the Broncos changed their coaching staff in the off-season; this is yet another cause for concern. A new coach brings a new scheme and new fits for all the players within that scheme. Unfortunately, this creates yet another level of uncertainty for Lindsay’s future role within the offense.
With all of the uncertainty surrounding Phillip Lindsay, it’s hard to say that he is worth his current fantasy draft-stock. I’d be more inclined to take a wait and see approach with Lindsay in fantasy football drafts this summer. As of right now, working with the facts that we currently have to work with, I’m okay passing on Lindsay in the early rounds. If he gets scooped up before late round four then it won’t be by me. However, if he does fall to me late in round four, well, it will be interesting to see who he is up against at that point and time. I would feel best drafting Lindsay as my third running back.
Last Word on Phillip Lindsay
Ultimately, here’s the last word on Phillip Lindsay. He’s a talented second-year back with a good opportunity in front of him. He is a boom/bust pick at his current ADP, and in his current situation, with a potential timeshare and unknown split. Lindsay has a slight build unlike most feature running backs but has shown to have a unique skill set that the Broncos will look to utilize. For fantasy football purposes, he can be viewed as a low-end RB2 but he’s best utilized as your RB3 to start the season.
Finally, Lindsay’s ceiling is that of a high-end RB2 and his floor, if he stays healthy, would be that of a low-end RB3. With a rebuilt offensive line, new quarterback, new coaching staff and injury concerns looming, a cautious approach towards Lindsay this summer seems wise. For those drafting later on in the preseason, it will be worth watching the Broncos first unit closely when they take the field. Only then, will we know if Lindsay is healthy and whether or not he looks good operating in his new offense? So, watch him closely this summer and choose wisely when considering Lindsay for your fantasy squad come draft time.