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How did Phillip Lindsay go undrafted? John Harbaugh points the finger

Zac Stevens Avatar
September 19, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Think about this for a second. The third-leading rusher in the NFL two weeks into the season went undrafted.

This year.

Boy, did the entire NFL — including the Denver Broncos — get their evaluation on Phillip Lindsay wrong, at least that’s what he’s quickly proving.

“We did look at him, we liked him a lot,” Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said as his team prepares to face the Broncos on Sunday, admitting the Ravens wanted to sign Lindsay as an undrafted rookie. “Broncos did a great job of signing him as an undrafted guy, and I give them a lot of credit.”

In fact, according to reports, Lindsay’s services moments after the draft ended came down to the Denver Broncos and the Ravens.

But why did it get to that point anyway? Why did Lindsay go undrafted?

The initial thought would be to point to his undersized 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame.

But would a multi-million dollar industry with 32 different teams really just go off those two numbers?

Five months after the fact, there’s been nothing to point to it being anything else.

Leading up to his Week 3 matchup against the Broncos, Harbaugh was asked how Lindsay went undrafted less than half a year ago. The head coach didn’t point to his height, weight or school he attended.

In fact, he wasn’t exactly happy.

“You can ask the scouts that when you get out of this conference call,” Harbaugh said with a snarky tone. “Ask John Elway that. Maybe he can answer for you. But I’m probably not the guy to answer that.”

Why not walk down the hall and ask Ozzie Newsome, John?

It’s understandable Harbaugh would be frustrated his team just missed on the opportunity to have Lindsay’ services.

As it sits right now, the Ravens have the tenth-worst rushing offense, only putting up 91.5 yards per game. Their leading rusher, Alex Collins, is averaging 24 yards per game — barely one-fourth of Lindsay’s 89 rushing yards per game, not to mention his 17.5 receiving yards he tacks on per game.

The Broncos, led by Lindsay, are second in the league in rushing. Their 157 yards per game only trail the Houston Texans by a mere half yard.

“You probably have to be surprised when any rookie — whether he’s a free agent or drafted highly — puts up the kind of production he’s put up. That’s pretty unusual and very impressive,” Harbaugh said, speaking of Lindsay.

Since Newsome and his staff decided to forgo drafting Lindsay, and instead tried luring him in after the draft, Harbaugh and his staff are spending this week preparing how to stop the young back that’s taken the league by storm instead of planning how to use him in their offense.

“He’s fast, that’s what stands out about him. He’s quick, he’s kind of fearless,” Harbaugh said to Baltimore’s media on Monday, singing the praises of Lindsay. “The offensive line has done a good job, but this kid is running, and he’s making plays with his speed and his fearlessness. He’s doing it as a kick returner, [too]. He’s back there as a kick returner as well, pretty impressive.”

Colorado’s native son is only six yards behind San Francisco’s Matt Breida in leading the league in rushing. He’s one lone yard behind Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon for second on that list.

If Lindsay keeps up this “amazing” success, as Harbaugh defined it, he’ll rush for 1,424 yards in 2018. That would be more than Kareem Hunt in 2017 (1,327 yards) and Todd Gurley in 2015 (1,106), each of their respective rookie seasons.

Harbaugh said for rookies to find success their first year in the NFL they need to be able to do what they did well in college at the next level.

“Lindsay is a good example of that,” Baltimore’s coach said, bringing up Lindsay without even being asked about him. “He was an explosive, speed back. When he gets space, be able to turn good plays into big chunk plays. That’s translated to the NFL.”

Lindsay has certainly made the big play, hauling in a 29-yard touchdown pass and scampering for a 53-yard run.

With more and more big plays, Lindsay will continue to make NFL head coaches mad at their general managers for letting Lindsay slip through their hands seven different times.

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