A Case for Phillip Lindsay
A Case for Phillip Lindsay
There seems to be a lot of concern and chatter about Phillip Lindsay lately. Open up Twitter and you will quickly find naysayers claiming the undrafted phenom cannot have a repeat of his 2018 season again in 2019. The arguments start with Lindsay being too small. Some also say he cannot withstand the pounding and has no track record.
You will also find the Twittersphere abuzz with concern about Royce Freeman taking away snaps from the former Colorado Buffalo. While some of these concerns are certainly legit, a look at some data may help quell some of these concerns. We will look at Lindsay and Freeman from their college days, compare snaps played and evaluate the efficiency of those snaps played by both running backs.
“He Has No Track Record”
Let us start by going back to Lindsay’s days as a Colorado Buffalo. Over the final two seasons of his college career, Lindsay averaged 310.5 touches per year and 13 games per season. That is good for an average of 23.88 touches per game over two full years. Granted the pounding taken in college pales in comparison to the NFL. Still, hits are hits and the undersized back has shown that he can hold up and finish a season.
Lindsay averaged a healthy 5.5 yards per touch over his career with the Buffalos. For good measure, 32 touchdowns were scored over the last two seasons. Freeman was also ultra-effective in college averaging 6.3 yards per touch during his tenure with the Oregon Ducks. The four-year starter amassed an amazing 64 touchdowns while in Eugene.
The biggest difference we find when comparing the two explosive backs is in the receiving game. Lindsay more than doubled the receptions of Freeman over their junior and senior years. Lindsay came in with 76 receptions for 750 yards (9.87 YPC) while Freeman checked in with just 37 for 308 yards (8.32 YPC).
There is also this quote from new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello:
Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello called Phillip Lindsay "one of the great assets of the organization” and “one of the more dynamic players in this league."
— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) June 5, 2019
Lindsay’s prowess in the passing game may be what keeps him on the field more. Freeman is playing on passing downs in OTAs because Lindsay is still recovering from a wrist injury and is somewhat limited. However, Scangarello’s comments suggest that the role is Lindsays to lose when healthy. The shifty back himself knows he can be productive on passing downs.
Phillip Lindsay told me we should expect to see him out there in space making plays this season. Added he doesn’t understand why people think he can’t catch. He expects to be used in the passing game this season.
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) June 5, 2019
2018 Inside the Numbers
Phillip Lindsay finished as the RB13 in PPR formats with 222.8 points. Lindsay was also very consistent, finishing in double-digit points in all but three of the games he played.
Freeman, on the other hand, finished as the RB46 with 103.3 points. The former Oregon Duck played in 15 games to Lindsay’s 15, but keep in mind, Lindsay left two games early due to injury and an ejection. Royce Freeman only managed double-digits just four times in his 14 games.
A look at the consistency data courtesy of FF Statistics shows precisely how much better the UDFA was in 2018.
Snap Counts and Efficiency
Recalling that Lindsay left two games early led to some in-depth look at the number of snaps played for the Denver Broncos backfield in 2018. Devontae Booker actually played eight more offensive snaps than Freeman but was far less productive. Booker finished as the RB55 with just 89.8 points. Lindsay played an extremely low number of snaps for someone who finished as high as he did at the position from a fantasy perspective.
Trying to get a feel for just how efficient Lindsay was, a comparison was made to the top-12 RBs from last year (RB1). What was determined is that the RB13 in PPR formats was almost as productive as Alvin Kamara and Melvin Gordon on a per snap basis. In fact, he was third overall in that category, finishing ahead of the likes of Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Todd Gurley.
The reason for this research was to prove that Lindsay does not need a lot of volume to be effective. Running backs like Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson needed a lot more time on the field to be productive. RB3 finishes were added for comparison. Freeman was not on the list because he fell out of the RB3 category. For comparison, Freeman came in at .34 points per snap.
While there were a couple of RB3s that were efficient, the drop off in points per snap is pretty significant at the bottom of both tiers. The most surprising name on the list is Dalvin Cook coming in at just .32 points per snap played.
The point in all of this is to remove some of the uneasiness of drafting Phillip Lindsay at his current ADP of 4.05 and RB21 in redraft leagues and 4.04 and RB18 in dynasty leagues. Even if Freeman were to eat into some of Lindsay’s snap, he is efficient enough on those snaps to finish as an RB2 yet again this year.
For argument’s sake, let us say that Lindsay drops to 400 snaps in 2019. This would bump Freeman up to 361 snaps based on last years snap counts, close to an even timeshare. At .49 points per snap, the undervalued running back would still score 196 points. That would have been good enough for a finish of RB17 in 2018. Draft him with confidence in all formats as an RB2 for your fake squad and take advantage of all the doubters out there.