Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and covering how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, 2018 potential and long-term upside.
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Phillip Lindsay, RB DEN
Week One Stats: 15 carries, 71 rushing yards (4.7 YPC), one touchdown, two receptions, 31 receiving yards, one touchdown reception (three targets)
To be completely honest, Lindsay didn’t appear on my radar until week one of the preseason when I was watching the Broncos take on the Vikings mostly to see if one of my favorite sleepers – Minnesota running back Roc Thomas – would make a splash. Lindsay wasn’t necessarily effective that evening (3.5 yards per carry) but made one play in the fourth quarter on a third-and-11 from the Vikings’ 19-yard line. Running a simple shake route against a soon-to-be-cut safety, he left the defensive back in his dust, caught the pass, and accelerated into the end zone.
After seeing the play live, I did what I always do when I discover an unknown during the preseason. I went to Youtube to watch his college highlights. And what I found was impressive, but I still felt his lack of size (5’-8”, 190 pounds) would limit his upside even if he made the team.
Lindsay continued to impress throughout the preseason, rushing for 70 yards on 13 carries (5.4 YPC) while catching four passes for 58 yards and that touchdown. Despite many in the dynasty community praising the former Colorado Buffalo, I continued to have doubts – which were likely partially due to my concern over his size and partly due to my fondness for the incumbent running back he was competing with for a roster spot in Denver, De’Angelo Henderson.
I was wrong.
The best things about what I saw from Lindsay in college have translated nicely to the NFL, at least through his first four NFL games (three in preseason and week one.) He runs with patience but exhibits incredible burst when a running lane appears. Slippery and sudden in confined spaces, he’s able to slither off tackles, often without losing any speed.
Lindsay’s strengths also spread into the passing game. Quick and shifty, he’s able to shake defenders to gain separation. Displaying good hands and instantly turning into a ball carrier after the catch, he’s extremely dangerous out of the backfield no matter if he’s running a simple check down or option route, and is capable of racking up YAC yardage in chunks.
Many dynasty owners were intrigued with Lindsay’s upside after he beat out Henderson for the Broncos’ third running back spot – but few were prepared for Lindsay to do what he did in week one.
Matching starter Royce Freeman in carries (15) and rushing yards (71), Lindsay appeared in week one to be in a 50/50 timeshare with the fellow rookie and to already have blown past Devontae Booker (2-4-0, 2-11-0) on the depth chart.
Lindsay’s biggest play came on a 29-yard touchdown catch in the flat where he wasn’t covered on the play. While he showed great burst after the catch, it was his consistent hard-nosed running that caught my eye in week one. Regularly bouncing into running lanes and accelerating to the second level before breaking arm tackles and routinely getting just enough to pick up first downs, he ground his way to a solid debut and an impressive 18.2 fantasy points in PPR leagues.
All things told, I’m kicking myself for not responding properly in my leagues this preseason when Lindsay was making an impact or even when he made the team. It’s obvious Lindsay has immediate upside to become a playmaker and weekly flex option for dynasty owners. While owners expecting 18 touches per week like he got on Sunday may be disappointed due to him sharing carries with Freeman, it’s completely reasonable to anticipate 10-15 touches per game and top-30 fantasy numbers from Lindsay as a rookie along with RB2 potential if he can ever get the lion’s share of the touches.
Will Dissly, TE SEA
Week One Stats: Three receptions, 105 receiving yards, one touchdown reception (five targets)
Another complete unknown to me, I didn’t even know who Dissly was until he was drafted by the Seahawks with the 20th pick in the fourth round this past spring. I remember looking him up and finding a scouting report calling him a, “blocking prospect.”
Following the draft, I heard an interview with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll calling Dissly the best blocking tight end in the draft. Then there was a report from Seattle’s training camp where Russell Wilson called the rookie, “really impressive” and “one of the stars of camp.” Still, nothing pointed to a breakout in week one.
I honestly didn’t think about Dissly since reading what Wilson said in early August. Until I saw him prance into the end zone on Sunday, of course.
Unlike with Lindsay above, I can’t say that I ever watched a second of Will Dissly playing at Washington. So having no previous feelings about the rookie tight end, let’s review what we know about him following his three catch, 105 yard, one touchdown performance against the Broncos.
With expected starter going into training camp, Ed Dickson, on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list for at least the first six weeks of the season, the athletic Nick Vannett was expected to start at tight end to begin the season. As it turned out, Vannett (35 snaps) and Dissly (33) split snaps almost equally. While Vannett caught just one pass for 11 yards, Dissly was the one making an impact with his breakout.
Dissly made all three of his receptions in the first half on Sunday. His first career catch came late in the first quarter when he sold his block on a play action perfectly and shucked the linebacker to get easy separation for the wide open 15-yard score. The play was executed perfectly by a traditional in-line blocker at tight end.
Later in the first half, Dissly lined up on the right side with fellow rookie Bradley Chubb (who’s a much better pass rusher than cover man) in man coverage against him. Dissly ran a sharp post route, beating Chubb by a step. He continued to break multiple tackles while rumbling for a 66-yard gain, showing good route running and excellent balance and determination after the catch to make the big play.
His final catch came against zone coverage where much like his previous big play, Dissly lined up on the right of the offensive line and ran a post. Quick off the line with a swift outside release he got behind the linebackers and extended to pluck the ball out of the air with two hands, showing excellent awareness against the zone.
One of the top scoring fantasy tight ends in week one along with Rob Gronkowski, it’s difficult to discount Dissly’s debut despite him being quiet in the second half with the Seahawks playing from behind. While we may have seen Dissly’s best fantasy performance of the year (and perhaps even his career), considering the lack of trust among the tight ends outside of the top options at the position, dynasty owners everywhere should be looking to Dissly as a quality developmental tight end prospect with the potential to be a streaming option immediately – particularly for those of us who lost Greg Olsen or Delanie Walker in week one.
The grades below are purely guesses, but count me as somebody that is very interested in adding Dissly in waivers this week. He may prove to be a one-week wonder, but I’m optimistic that he could become a trusted target for Wilson – and maybe dynasty owners everywhere.
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