The Broncos didn’t anticipate undrafted free agent running back Phillip Lindsay to take snaps from Royce Freeman, but here we are. He needs to start.
After the release of CJ Anderson in the offseason, the Denver Broncos were turning to a younger wave of running backs. Entering training camp, the competition for the starting job was expected to be between 2016 fourth-round pick Devontae Booker and 2018 third-round pick Royce Freeman.
As the preseason went on, Booker started to lose his grip on the job. Freeman, the rookie, looked like the most qualified back for the job. Undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay looked good, too, though — and his absence in the Broncos’ final preseason game suggested the team may have had some bigger plans for him.
Then, in Week 1 against Seattle, the Denver coaching staff couldn’t take him off the field. He led all Broncos running backs in touches — 15 carries for 71 yards along with two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
In Week 2, Freeman started, but Lindsay saw the majority of the touches again. He gashed the Raiders for 107 yards on 14 carries (7.6 yards per carry).
It is hard to understand how Lindsay went undrafted out of the University of Colorado. He rushed for 3,775 yards and 36 touchdowns in four years as a Buffaloe and is the school’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard-dash time at his Pro Day but was not invited to the Combine.
At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, Lindsay is an absolute horse — no pun intended. He runs like one, too.
Lindsay finds holes and accelerates through them. His low-centered, stocky frame makes him tough to bring down.
It has to be tough for John Elway to see mid-round picks like Booker and Freeman relegated to lesser roles, but what is better for a general manager than seeing an undrafted signing work out this well right away? He’s making $480,000 this season!
Undrafted free agents have paid dividends for Denver over the years, namely Chris Harris Jr. Harris signed with Denver in 2011 after going undrafted out of Kansas. Over time, he became one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks — being named First Team All-Pro in 2016. He was a key in Denver’s lockdown defense that netted them a Super Bowl victory that year.
Lindsay may not get to the level of having that kind of impact, but he can absolutely make a difference in the Broncos offense. He needs to start moving forward.