After joining the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Phillip Lindsay quickly wrestled the starting running back job away from fellow rookie Royce Freeman. Lindsay surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons while scoring 17 total TDs.
In March, Phillip Lindsay’s hopes of rushing for 1,000 yards in a third straight season were effectively dashed when the Broncos signed Melvin Gordon to a 2 year, $16 million contract. Since entering the league in 2015, Melvin Gordon has functioned as an all-purpose workhorse, averaging over 16 carries per game and tallying at least 55 targets in four straight seasons. Assuming Gordon is given a similar role in Denver, the workload for Phillip Lindsay will be dramatically reduced.
The road to fantasy relevance in 2020 is not clear for Lindsay. The Broncos were 14th in rush attempts last season despite being 29th in total plays, so even if the offensive volume increases with a new OC and improved personnel, the rushing volume might not significantly increase. In 2019, Lindsay received 224 of Denver’s 359 RB carries. If we boost those carries to 375 for 2020 and give Gordon just 225 (14 per game), that leaves Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman with 150 left to split.
Many part-time RBs like James White and Tarik Cohen have achieved fantasy success through their roles in the passing game. While Phillip Lindsay has the size profile of a satellite back (5’ 8”, 190lbs), we cannot project him as the primary receiver out of the backfield. I already mentioned Gordon’s impressive track record as a pass-catcher, but even more concerning is the fact that Royce Freeman had more targets and receptions than Lindsay in the same backfield in 2019.
Lindsay is currently being drafted around RB40, which seems about right. If he can consistently get 8-10 touches, he’ll be a weekly flex option, but without an injury to Melvin Gordon, he has little upside beyond that.
Phillip Lindsay will be 26 years old in 2020, past the prime age for RB production, and entering just his third season in the league. When Lindsay becomes a free agent in 2021, he’ll be competing with fellow FAs Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Chris Carson, James Conner, and others for a new contract. In the face of such steep competition, and with starting roles in short supply, I find it unlikely that an undersized former UDFA, about to turn 27, will find himself in anything but an RB timeshare for 2021 and beyond.
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