Air BnB

Jeff Haverlack

air bnbWith the 2015 season now behind us, you as a fantasy coach need to have a very short term memory.  Sure there’s obligatory smack talk reserved for those taking home the championship but in the fantasy realm, much like many others, it’s a what have you done for me lately affair.

Much of what we do here at DLF is focused on helping you, the dynasty coach, identify players before they become household names, develop strategies that we think give you an edge each or track collegiate players on their way to the professional game so you don’t have to.

In other cases, such as this piece, we provide player comparisons to help uncover a player’s potential or answer the burning question(s) about expectations for next year.

In 2015, the air attack from both Antonio Brown and Doug Baldwin was both completely expected and completely unexpected, respectively of course.

While Antonio Brown is now widely considered to be the top receiver on draft boards, Doug Baldwin has been anything but.  Brown now has three consecutive 100+ reception campaigns, four 1,000 yard seasons and triple digit targets in five straight years, Baldwin will see his first 1,000 yard performance and triple digit target season in 2015.  Through week 16 of the NFL season, Baldwin is currently tied for touchdowns on the season with 14 while Brown has notched nine.

But this isn’t an article about what we already know about Antonio Brown.  This is a piece trying to answer the question:  Who is Doug Baldwin, where did he come from and what can we expect from him in 2016 and beyond? That question alone seems to garner a lot of interest on forums.  On the DLF forums alone, I have been watching closely as many wrestle with this same question.  It seems that Baldwin’s value is being placed squarely as a mid second round rookie selection.

I have been an owner of Baldwin in multiple leagues and have struggled to find a suitable comparison.  He’s not as strong or as physical as Steve Smith, he’s lighter and more agile than Torrey Smith and he’s craftier in routes than T.Y. Hilton.  Before doing a bit more research I had almost settled on a comparison with Emmanuel Sanders but the agility and separation speed of Baldwin is clearly better than that of Sanders.

As it turns out, the one comparison I wasn’t making was one that I was afraid to, because to make it is sure to bring criticism.  But the more I’ve watched the more I have to go there:  Doug Baldwin reminds me a lot of Antonio Brown.


Let’s get this out of the way quickly so we don’t have to spend more time discussing it.  Physically, Brown and Baldwin are very close in all major measurements from height, weight, age and speed.  Aside from the fact that Baldwin is a listed eight pounds heavier than that of Brown, they are nearly physical mirrors of each other.

But does that translate onto the field?

In the last three years, Brown’s best stretch, he’s averaged just over 11 targets per game.  Prior to 2015, Baldwin’s best year, 2014, saw just north of six targets per game.  In 2015, his average is up to nearly 6.5.  But in his past seven tilts, the average climbs to eight.

If you don’t feel that chemistry plays a huge part in a receiver’s production, consider those games where Ben Roethlisberger was injured and Brown was forced to play with Landry Jones under center.  In those two tilts, Brown garnered only eight targets and failed to score a touchdown.  The return of Big Ben following injury resulted in an immediate return to double digit targets and production, including a 17 reception, 284 yard performance in which he, amazingly, did not score a touchdown.  The fact here is that chemistry and system play a huge role in a receiver’s ability to produce consistently.

For Baldwin, something snapped in week ten vs. the Cardinals. What has followed has been awe inspiring and certainly disruptive across the fantasy landscape.  In these past seven weeks, Baldwin has averaged the aforementioned eight targets per game, 56 overall, converting on 42 of them (75%) for 678 yards and a staggering 12 touchdowns.

There’s not a fantasy soul, save that of the foolish, that expects that type of production to continue but what can we expect going forward and just what is Doug Baldwin’s ceiling?

Before moving on, let me reiterate that the goal of this article is not to sell you on Doug Baldwin being the next Antonio Brown but, instead, drawing comparison to fantasy’s top receiver should at least make you question his potential and perhaps cause a some pause in immediately disregarding his future potential as many seem to have done.  Don’t forget that in the two years prior to Brown’s breakout performance in 2013, his numbers looked very much like Baldwin’s.

First thing first.  Baldwin isn’t a free agent until 2017, meaning that he’s safe as Russell Wilson’s primary target for at least one more year.  You can expect his contract year campaign to be a noteworthy carrot in ’16.

By contrast, Baldwin’s 2015 reception yard average sits at 14.0 while Brown’s is 13.4.  It’s not a surprise that, because of Brown’s increased reception totals, Baldwin is nearly 100 points below Brown in fantasy point production, 354 to 259 (PPR).  For Baldwin to come anywhere close to Brown’s value in fantasy, his targets would need to increase by nearly two-fold, something not likely to happen in Seattle’s offense built upon Wilson’s mobility from the pocket.  In fact, that same mobility is the primary factor behind Baldwin’s increased fantasy points per game.  Brown’s touchdown to target ratio sits at 5% while Baldwin’s is a relatively ridiculous 14.4%.  Many don’t realize that Brown is far more a possession receiver than he is a touchdown scoring machine, averaging only seven touchdowns per year over his past five years.

Looking forward, it’s difficult to ascertain with any level of certainty whether Baldwin will or will not continue to produce at his current pace.  As mentioned previously, it’s safe to say that his touchdown to reception ratio will normalize over time to some more realistic number.  And like many other receivers, once a receiver consistently produces, opposing coordinators will scheme for them specifically.  In this area, Baldwin has an advantage as Wilson’s escapability pressures defenses by keeping plays alive and allowing Baldwin to find space using his vertical separation ability.


In summary, the risk to Baldwin’s value is far higher than other top receivers.  He doesn’t have elite size or speed nor does he participate in a prolific passing attack to elicit any level of confidence about his continued elite production.  But that doesn’t invalidate Baldwin as a potential breakout candidate or his ability to continue his production.

Let’s see if we can back into a high-ceiling production number for next year.

Looking forward into 2016, I do believe Baldwin’s target totals will rise accordingly to the success he’s had this year.  I expect his targets to approach 9.0 per game.  Realistically, I’m placing this figure at 8.8, a slight increase to his recent pace as Seattle continues to try and work the ball into his hands.  Extrapolating that into a full season yields 140 targets.  Applying a slightly reduced catch ratio of .7  to this number yields 98 receptions.  Further applying Brown’s more manageable 13.4 yards per catch average, less than Baldwin’s current 14.0, yields 1,313 yards.

A key point to Antonio Brown’s numbers is his reduced touchdown percentage, showing that increased receptions comes at a cost of decreased touchdowns, or at least the ratio of touchdowns per reception.  Cutting Baldwin’s touchdown to target ratio to a more pedestrian figure of .07 (7%), still north of Browns .05 (5%), we get 10.5 touchdowns.

So there we have it, a high end prediction of Baldwin’s 2016 production of 98 receptions,  1,313 yards and 10 touchdowns.

At first blush, the yardage total appears rather generous but recall that in Baldwin’s recent seven game stretch, he’s nearly producing at levels that, if extrapolated, would confirm this prediction.  Even production at 90% of this level produces very solid WR2 numbers, arguably WR1.

Of course the caveat here is that Baldwin’s performance in 2015 could be completely anomalous and he could very well return to his previous WR3 status in 2016.  What was offered here is a high-ceiling scenario that I believe is fairly represented.  To be sure, the risk presented given that Doug Baldwin has not enjoyed even a full year of this new level of production will decrease his value. But if his community value is pegged anywhere near a middle second round rookie pick, I’d be buying without any lost sleep or further consideration.

It’s true that a review of recent draft picks finds that productive fantasy second round draft selections have increased from years past, perhaps to an average of 30%.  If I can trade away a 30% chance at fantasy productivity for immediate fantasy production from an established upside veteran, especially if I’m a contending team (thus an even lower second round selection), I’ll make that trade nine ways to Sunday … and you should too.  In fact, I’d suggest that Baldwin’s value has already found it’s way to the back end of the first round value of rookie drafts.

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jeff haverlack