There are 73,557 college football players that participate in NCAA programs each year. Of them, 16,346 are draft eligible. And yet there are only 256 possible times a player can be drafted each year.
Teams and their scouting staffs work 365 days a year to make sure that, of those draft eligible players, they give themselves the best chance to select the best of the bunch. But even with all that legwork there are some who slip through the cracks.
That's the story of Phillip Lindsay, the biggest steal of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Lindsay's path to the NFL was forged through family. Born in Denver Colorado, Lindsay attended the same high school his father did, and also played his same position -- Lindsay also wore No. 22 in high school, the same number his father wore. Lindsay's father held the Denver Public School rushing record in a high school, and while wearing his dad's number, Lindsay surpassed it and made the record his own in his senior year.
After a stellar high school career, Lindsay committed to the University of Colorado. Lindsay didn't see much action in his first two seasons with the Buffaloes, one as a redshirt year recovering from an ACL tear and one as a special teams player. But in 2015 he took over as the lead back and never looked back. He was elected as a team captain as just a sophomore, and from there had a truly memorable collegiate career. Lindsay set the Colorado career record for all-purpose yards and yards from scrimmage, and also ranked second in school history in rushing yards, as well as fifth in points scored.
Despite being one of the most dominant all-purpose backs Colorado has ever seen, Lindsay was not one of those 256 players who heard their name called in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Lindsay signed with the Denver Broncos in May of 2018 shortly after the draft, and that turned out to be the best possible scenario for him. But it almost didn't happen. Lindsay watched his home town team selected two running backs in the draft that weren't him, and after the draft Lindsay said that he almost didn't choose Denver because of how upset he was that they drafted two players of the same position before him.
But after talking with his parents and examining the running back situation in Denver, Lindsay realized that this was his best spot -- plus it would allow him to continuing living at home with his mom and dad, something he did throughout his entire rookie year.
After an impressive preseason campaign, once thought to be a long-shot, Lindsay made the Broncos 53-man roster as the No. 3 running back on the depth chart. In a running back room that was not solidified at the top, Lindsay had early chances to make a name for himself, and boy did he ever.
In Week 1 Lindsay received more touches than any running back on the team, and it only went up from there. The week after that he recorded his first 100-yard rushing game. Lindsay would go on to play in 15 of the team's 16 regular season games with eight starts. By the end of the season, he was being named Offensive Player of the Week. He finished his rookie year with the second highest rushing total (1,036 yards) by an undrafted rookie in league history, and was the first undrafted offensive player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Technically Phillip Lindsay isn't even a steal of the 2018 NFL Draft. He wasn't even draft at all. But he has to be the choice. From where he's come from to what he's done, Lindsay's path has never been ideal -- it's never been easy -- but for anyone who has ever taken a chance on him, it's been one of the best decisions they've ever made.