Phillip Lindsay and Matt Breida are both running backs that came into the league as undrafted free agents but showed enough earn spots in the NFL. Both also come into 2020 in a running back by committee. For the Denver Broncos, Lindsay has to deal with Melvin Gordon playing ahead of him. On the Miami Dolphins side, Breida will split time with the Jordan Howard. Nevertheless, a closer look reveals that Lindsay is the back to own in fantasy football.
Fantasy Football: Draft Phillip Lindsay Over Matt Breida
Both in Committee Backfields
Both Lindsay and Breida have dealt with running backs by committee for most of the time in the NFL. Lindsay came in as an undrafted free agent the same year the Broncos drafted Royce Freeman in the third round of the 2018 draft. Despite an uphill battle at even making the team, Lindsay was able to put a stronghold on not only his roster spot but also the starting job.
He rushed for over 1,000 yards and ten total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Freeman’s rushing numbers were basically half that despite receiving only 60 fewer carries. In 2020, Lindsay continued to hold off Freeman and staying involved in the passing game. This made him the RB13 in points-per-game (PPG) for half-PPR leagues.
At the same time, Breida has played the last three years for the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan seems to run a committee backfield by choice, so it hasn’t given Breida much of a chance to break out in the same way that Lindsay has. He has only gotten at least 150 carries in one of his three seasons.
However, he has only gotten the nod as the starter in 18 of his 43 games played. He looks good when he starts, but he is oftentimes playing behind other runners. In 2019 he only averaged 7.9 fantasy PPG but that is probably not the most accurate sample to go by, considering he only started five of his 13 games. Well, it doesn’t look much better for him in 2018, when he started 13 of the 14 games he played. That season, despite being the primary runner, he only managed a pedestrian 10.6 fantasy PPG.
Looking Towards 2020
Breida and Lindsay go into 2020 as running backs by committee yet again. Breida moved from the 49ers to the Miami Dolphins, but he is alongside fellow newcomer Howard. Many expect Breida to get the bulk of the work, due to negative gameflow. Sure, Breida is the better pass-catcher, but it doesn’t mean he will see the field more. Howard is still the better pure rusher, so will almost certainly getting early-down work.
Aside from that, he is the better red-zone backs, with at least seven touchdowns in each of his four NFL seasons. Breida has only topped three touchdowns once in his career. There is a good chance he is relegated to just third-down duties.
Lindsay’s projections are almost the polar opposite of Breida’s despite Lindsay thoroughly outproducing him the past few years. To be fair, Lindsay’s chances of punching in a third-straight 1,000-yard season are almost zero percent.
The Broncos brought in high-priced running back Gordon from the Los Angeles Chargers. Gordon is a dynamic back who can both run and catch the bell well. But he has shown issues staying healthy. In his five-year career, he only has one 1,000-yard rushing season.
He also doesn’t necessarily have the best YPC, with only one season over 4.0. Denver has already shown a tendency to play the better player, going with Lindsay over Freeman. If Gordon’s rushing numbers are inefficient, Lindsay has a shot to overtake him on the ground.
And regardless, he has earned at least a portion of carries, which is likely more than Breida will get.
ADP and Outlook for Phillip Lindsay and Matt Breida
Lindsay are Breida are rated at RB34 and RB37, a few slots apart according to ESPN’s rankings. This is basically the area of drafts where second running backs and handcuffs are taken. What that means is no one is taking these guys expecting them to be weekly starters. But in that area, Lindsay is basically the only back with a high-volume pedigree, increasing his upside.
Should Gordon go down, Lindsay will immediately step in and put up starting-caliber points. However, that is true of most backs in this spot. What makes Lindsay more appealing is that he actually has a chance to overtake Gordon in carries if the Broncos really want to let the better runner loose. In addition, Lindsay can be started in a pinch, since he should still be involved in the game.
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