The biggest 2018 NFL draft steals: Building a team on offense, defense

Lindsay's loving life as local kid with Broncos (4:48)

Michelle Beisner-Buck spends a day with Broncos rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who grew up in Denver and is enjoying being a local hero. (4:48)

Drafting players who make an immediate impact is common practice for teams picking in the first and second rounds of the NFL draft. But adding a Day 3 prospect or undrafted free agent who plays well as a rookie qualifies as getting a draft steal.

We picked a team of rookie steals using our Pro Football Focus grades -- our play-by-play grading of every player on every play of every game.

To qualify for the team, a player must have played meaningful snaps during the 2018 season while also exhibiting the same sort of skill set that saw him grade high during his time in college or during his now-brief time in the NFL. All grades and statistics mentioned are from the regular season only. Because the offensive line pool was small -- there are few qualifiers who played in Year 1 -- we have three tackles, one guard and one center.


Nick Mullens, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Pick: Undrafted

Mullens -- the only quarterback who qualifies here -- earned 65.0-plus single-game grades in four of his eight starts in 2018 and finished the year ranked 26th in overall grade (64.6) among quarterbacks with 200-plus dropbacks. Rounding out why he may warrant looks elsewhere once Jimmy Garoppolo returns is the fact that he also ranked 11th among qualifiers in passer rating from a clean pocket (109.8), a metric that has proved stable year over year in recent PFF studies.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

Pick: Undrafted

Lindsay is the epitome of a steal. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound rookie from Colorado shot out of the gate in 2018 and finished with the seventh-best run grade (84.3) out of 61 qualifying running backs. Over the course of the year, his 30 runs of 10-plus yards tied for the seventh most among all players at the position. If Lindsay has anything to improve on before next season, it's his ability to gain yards after contact -- he averaged just 2.35 yards after contact, 53rd among running backs.

Robert Foster, WR, Buffalo Bills

Pick: Undrafted

The former Alabama wideout did not have a proven track record of success in college, notching a career-high 14 receptions in his senior season with an overall grade of just 48.6. Foster outperformed expectations as an undrafted rookie wide receiver, however. He expanded his role in the Bills' offense as the season progressed, eventually solidifying as one of the top two receiving options for quarterback Josh Allen. Allen looked Foster's way often deep downfield. In Weeks 10-17 -- when Foster began to see consistent snaps -- he recorded 304 receiving yards on passes 20 or more yards downfield, which ranked fourth in the NFL over those eight weeks, trailing only T.Y. Hilton, Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown. His 72.1 overall grade led all Bills receivers.