Doug Baldwin is still undervalued in fantasy
One of the biggest questions this offseason has been whether or not Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin will be able to keep up the insane pace that he finished with last season. While the answer to that is probably a “no,” he may be better than you think.
Early consensus shows fantasy football players view Baldwin as a high-end WR3, based on his late fourth/early fifth round ADP. That puts him right around the 23rd wide receiver off the board, which sounds about right to the novice fan.
Most probably don’t know that Baldwin has topped 778 yards in each of his last three seasons, despite seeing an average of just 91 targets in them. By comparison, there were just four wide receivers in 2015 that totaled 778 yards or more on fewer than 91 targets.
Baldwin himself totaled 1,069 yards on 99 targets in 2015, which was the most yardage for anyone with fewer than 120 targets. So when you think that Baldwin’s 14 touchdowns were the reason for his success, he had 21 fewer targets than the next guy (Jeremy Maclin) did to reach his yardage.
Removing touchdowns from the equation all together, Baldwin actually had the fourth-most fantasy points per target. The only players that were in front of him were: Torrey Smith, Sammy Watkins, and Rishard Matthews. The fact that he averaged this many points per touch on so many targets means a lot as well, as Smith and Matthews each had lower targets to keep up the pace (57 and 59). Watkins on the other hand, was a stud and is now being drafted as such.
The reason for Baldwin’s high points per touch isn’t completely credited to him, either. Russell Wilson is the one throwing him the ball, and he just happens to be the most accurate quarterback when throwing to wide receivers, and it’s not even close.
Wilson completed 75.4 percent of his passes that were aimed at his wide receivers last year, while the next closest was Andy Dalton, who completed 69.4 percent of his. The league average in 2015 sat at 62.7 percent. And before you think that it was a fluke, Wilson completed 71.5 percent of his passes to wide receivers in 2014, highest in the NFL.
So when looking at Baldwin, you need to factor in the fact that Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when throwing to wide receivers.
When trying to figure out what happened with Baldwin in 2015 and why he blew up, it’s pretty simple when comparing his numbers to that of years past. His opportunity has gone up each and every year – from 50 targets in 2012, to 72 in 2013, to 98 in 2014, and then 99 in 2015. His receptions have gone up each year with those target increases, naturally. So to see his touchdowns progress, it should have been expected to a certain degree.
You can point out that he was stuck at just three, five, and three touchdowns over the previous three years, but keep in mind the type of receiver that Baldwin is. He is a receiver who played in the slot on 79.3 percent of his routes. He is someone who will rely on short, quick touchdowns – not someone like Calvin Johnson who would tower over two defenders.
The loss of Marshawn Lynch last year cannot be understated, considering he had accounted for 64 of the Seahawks touchdowns from 2011-2014. It also helps that Jimmy Graham wasn’t around to steal targets once he went down with a season-ending injury in Week 12.
There were obvious factors that helped Baldwin score 14 touchdowns, but what you want to know is what to look for in 2016. You should be looking for more of the same.
Remember when Matt Flynn received a big free agent contract from the Seahawks worth $26 million dollars with $10 million guaranteed? Head Coach Pete Carroll drafted Russell Wilson, saying it was an open competition. He stayed true to his word and Wilson started, because he was the better player. This is not the only instance where Carroll has done something like that. He will play the guys who give him the best chance to win, and Baldwin does just that.
The Seahawks were not major players in either free agency or the draft, so Baldwin has done nothing but solidify a major role in the offense. After the way he played last season, it’d be dumb not to feature him.
While there is no way to guarantee that he will continue to produce WR1 numbers, I can tell you that Marshawn Lynch isn’t going to be on the team, Thomas Rawls is coming off a bad ankle injury without a timeline for return, and that Jimmy Graham suffered a ruptured right patellar tendon in his knee. Seeing that he will turn 30 years old in-season, it’s hard to imagine him being the same player that he once was.
The stars are aligning for Baldwin, as they did last year. You can argue that there will be touchdown regression if you want, but at WR23, you’re already getting him at a discount. He’s a rock solid WR2 in both standard and PPR formats.