The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Truth: Week 17

Jacob Feldman


One of the things we as human beings tend to do an awful lot of in our lives is react to the things we see around us. Often times this is a good thing. For example, if a car just so happens to be driving down the same sidewalk you are walking on, you better get out of the way! That’s definitely a good reaction.

There is another side of the coin, though – that is the gross overreaction which is becoming more and more common into today’s world, thanks in part to social media. This isn’t just in life but also in the world of fantasy football. It isn’t uncommon for the smallest of things are blown way out of proportion. Other times what should be a minor blip on the radar gets way more attention than it deserves. There are also times when we ignore all of the warning signs and try to stay the course, not realizing we are heading for a cliff. Don’t worry though, because I’m here to help with these very things.

Each week I will examine a player or sometimes multiple players to see if their value is on par with what people are talking about. Often times this will be a player who “breaks out” the previous week and might be getting a lot of attention in trade talks or on the waiver wire. Other times it might be a player who received a lot of hype during the off-season who isn’t living up to expectations. Regardless of what it is, I’ll be doing my best to steer you in the right direction and get you a step ahead of your league-mates.

Keep in mind that no one is perfect. After all, I told you to ignore Justin Forsett after opening weekend last year. Hey, we all make mistakes, but I like to think I’ve had a pretty good track record over the years of doing this. Two years ago, I was one of the first to lay out why you needed to trade Trent Richardsonfor whatever you could get, much like the Browns had done a week or two before. At the time I was blasted by readers, but if you listened you sold before his value crashed. I was also dead on with Larry Donnell fading down the stretch, Allen Hurns being good enough to stay ahead of Marqise Lee on the depth chart, Antone Smith being little more than a rarely used homerun hitter, and countless other takes from the last few years. Moral of the story, I miss from time-to-time like everyone else, but I feel I get it right much more often. When I’m wrong, I’ll own that mistake.

It has been a very long time since we have had a fantasy relevant wide receiver from our pro team in the northwest part of the country. We got our hopes up with players like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, but both of them fizzled and died during their time with the Seahawks. Some blamed the players themselves, the system they were playing in, or the play style and skill set of Russell Wilson. Regardless of the reasons behind it, many in the fantasy world had written off any receiver playing for the Seahawks as being a dependable fantasy asset. Then Doug Baldwin showed up for the months of November and December. Is his production sustainable or just a flash in the pan?

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Doug Baldwin, WR SEA

Season stats: 73 receptions on 96 targets for 1023 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Stats since week 9 bye (7 games):42 receptions on 56 targets for 678 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Season stat line at that 7 game pace: 96 receptions for 1550 yards and 27 touchdowns

I’m not sure what happened during the Seahawks bye week, but Baldwin went from a receiver averaging under four catches and 43 yards a game to one of if not the top scoring fantasy receiver in most leagues from week 10 on. As you can see from the season stats at that pace above, Baldwin has been on fire these last few months. His low point was a six catch and 60 yard performance. When that is your lowest scoring fantasy game you can definitely sign me up! This is especially true since he had over 20 points every other game during that span in PPR leagues. The big question is if this is a fifth year breakout or just the perfect storm which likely helped several people in their playoff push.

The Good:When you watch Baldwin play the game, the first item which stands out about the fifth-year pro is his exceptional route running. If you watch a lot of his touchdown catches over the last few weeks he is more wide open than you ever see an NFL receiver. Often times there isn’t a single defender within five yards of him when he makes the catch. He’s using his speed and agility to full advantage with his route running. In fact, it has reached a point where he has even made defenders trip over his own feet a few times. That isn’t something you see every day.

Another plus for Baldwin over these past few weeks has been his role in the offense. While Seattle still has one of the more dangerous running games in the league with a dual threat quarterback at the helm to keep defenses honest, they have been shifting to a passing team since the bye week. Maybe this is due to Marshawn Lynch’s injury, but I think it is more than that. Russell Wilson seems more comfortable in the passing game and Baldwin is clearly his top target. This was made even more pronounced with the loss of Jimmy Graham during the week 12 game. Baldwin has accounted for over 25 percent of the targets over this time period. He’s definitely the focal point of the offense right now, and he is being highly successful in that role.

The Bad:One of the knocks on Baldwin over the years has been his size. At 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds he is far from the prototypical NFL receiver. He might be an exceptional route runner, but he isn’t going to get any bigger. The common belief has been this will limit his overall ceiling. There are always exceptions to this rule, like Antonio Brown, but typically smaller receivers do need to be much more skilled than their larger counterparts to make a mark in the NFL.

The other major concern for Baldwin is this being his fifth year in the NFL. We normally don’t see an explosion in production like this from a player at this point in their career. In fact, the vast majority of players who turn into fantasy assets do so at some point in their first three seasons. The Seahawks have given him the opportunity over his previous years, but he hasn’t produced like this, especially when it comes to touchdowns. Over the first three seasons he was scoring roughly once every 11 receptions. In 2014 that fell to once every 22 receptions. The last seven games it has been once every 3.5 receptions. That’s clearly out of line with the previous four years and raises some red flags. His touchdowns aren’t the only item which doesn’t seem to fit.

The Ugly Truth: As I just mentioned, the touchdown rate just isn’t sustainable. The norm in the NFL for a full-time starter is pretty close to one touchdown per ten receptions. There is obviously some huge variation in that number based on skill set and the role the receiver plays, but expecting Baldwin to return closer to his ratio from the first three years of his career is definitely reasonable. This is going to cut into fantasy numbers quite a bit since those scores are a huge part of his total.

While his role has increased, it still isn’t on par with most of the top targets in the NFL. Baldwin is getting about 25 percent of his teams targets but that doesn’t amount to what a lot of the other top targets on other teams get. His last seven games equate to 128 targets for a season, which would put him outside of the top 20 in targets most seasons. Even with the uptick that still isn’t the volume you want to see for a consistent fantasy starter. What does work in his favor is his higher than normal catch rate. The past two years Baldwin has been around 68 percent for his catch rate, but this season it has been over 75 percent. So while his targets might be lower than normal, the high catch rate does make up for some but not all of it.

I know I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth right now, but that is because Baldwin is a rather confusing case. He is small, but he’s very physical and beats press coverage well, just like Steve Smith. His route running is one of the best in the league, right up there with Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Julian Edelman. While he hasn’t done as much as one would hope prior to this season, he has shown signs.

Overall, I think Baldwin has the talent to be a top target for an NFL team. If he played for someone other than the Seahawks, he might actually be a consistent WR1. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he is under contract through the 2016 season, and my guess is they will lock him up even longer this offseason. Even with Wilson starting to trust his arm more than his legs, I think Baldwin is going to be limited to more of a WR2 level in future years due to the system Seattle runs. He obviously has the potential for big gains and touchdowns, but I think these will be less frequent next season than they have been the last few weeks.

Final Verdict: He’s talented, but the system will hold him back. If someone is willing to pay a price equal to his production over the last seven weeks it is time to move him. I think he’s much more of a WR2 in future years. I would definitely make an offer to see where his current owner values him. In some leagues, you might be able to get him at WR3 prices.



jacob feldman