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Spotlight: Anquan Boldin

posted by Mark Wimer on Aug 1st


Mark Wimer's thoughts

Anquan Boldin comes into the 2011 season with some unfinished business - it was Boldin who dropped the touchdown pass in the end zone during the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was Boldin who posted his worst season over the past six years - his first season as a Raven - with 108 targets for 64 receptions and 837 yards and 7 touchdowns last year, finishing as the 27th-ranked fantasy wide receiver. 64 receptions were the second least he's managed during his career (he had 56 in ten games of action back in 2004, but last year he played a full slate of 16 games and still only had 64 catches). There is a lot of room for Boldin to improve this season.

Given the room for improvement, there are lots of reasons to expect Boldin to be a better fantasy receiver this year. The Ravens have released long-time stalwarts Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, leaving Boldin as the veteran of the pass-catching corps. While there's still a chance Derrick Mason will be re-signed, for now Boldin's receiving mates equate to two rookies (Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss), and a collection of guys with minimal regular season accomplishments (David Reed, Jeff Hardy, Marcus Smith and Justin Harper). It's not only the WR corps that's inexperienced; tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are in their second year with a grand total of 12 career receptions between them.

It's hard to explain what happened to Boldin last year, but part of the explanation probably lies in the fact he was adjusting to new surroundings, a new offensive system, new coaches and of course a new quarterback. Even though his totals were uninspiring, Boldin's underlying metrics were less concerning:

  • 13.1 yards per reception - Boldin's YPR was his best since the 2006 season
  • 16 games played - Boldin has missed time in five of seven seasons before playing all 16 games in 2010
  • 7 touchdown receptions - Boldin's 7 TDs in 64 receptions was among the best conversion rates of his career

So what went wrong? The first thing that jumps out is Boldin's paltry 268 yards after the catch. Compare that to nearly 800 yards after the catch two seasons ago, and it makes one wonder if Boldin has lost his explosiveness. But remember, Boldin averaged a respectable 13.1 yards per catch last year, versus just 11.9 yards per catch in the 2008 season when his YAC was so high. It wasn't a case of explosiveness, it's a case of how the Ravens used Boldin. He wasn't being thrown those short crossing routes that he so expertly leveraged as a Cardinal. They tried to treat Boldin like a pure vertical threat, and that's never going to suit his game. Boldin has never been a guy that will take the ball over the top and run away from defensive backs, he's been a guy that will make catches in tight coverage and use his strength and precise route running to get tough yards in traffic. You can bet that Head Coach John Harbaugh and his staff will rectify that error in the 2011 game plan.

Positives

  • Boldin is now the clear-cut #1 wide receiver on the roster
  • Boldin has a year of experience in the Ravens' system now, which should help him develop more rapport with Joe Flacco
  • Boldin is a savvy NFL veteran with the experience to overcome the double-teams which may come his way now that Derrick Mason is out of the lineup

Negatives

  • Boldin will be 30 when the season begins, an age at which some players' skills and recuperative powers start to fade noticeably
  • Boldin will be targeted by defensive coordinators as the sole veteran receiver on the field - opposing DBs will be gunning for him week in and week out
  • The Ravens' offense is already run-first in mentality, and the youth at wide receiver and tight end this year may reinforce that tendency

Final thoughts

Expect Boldin to rebound into a fantasy WR2 this year, as the consensus ranking on staff puts him 24th currently. He could outperform that tier and move on up into the top-12 at his position if everything breaks right for Boldin this year (for example, if he can get into the double-digits in scoring plays), but more importantly he has a high floor which should give you confidence in bidding for him after you've targeted elite players at other positions in your first few rounds.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

mlball77 said:

Boldin had a solid first half of the 2010 season, but was relatively quiet after Bal's Week 8 bye. I wasn't expecting him to tear it up in Bal, but I thought he'd be a bit more productive. Unfortunately for Boldin owners, I'm not seeing any reason to expect a big rebound season in 2011; with Mason still there, Heap still there, Rice so involved in the passing game and now the addition of T Smith and T Doss.

MrTwo94 said:

Last year Boldin finished as WR27 by FBG scoring and currently has an ADP of WR24, so given last year's up and down performance he isn't presenting much value. And as someone else said, he disappeared after the bye week. He ended the year with 64/837/7 but that was 38/518/5 through 7 weeks and 26/319/2 for the last 9. If you extrapolate those numbers to a full season you get 87/1184/11 vs. 46/567/4. I'm sure we'd all like to know which Boldin to expect in 2011. If these splits were reversed I think we'd all feel pretty safe assuming he just had a hard time getting integrated into the new system and project something like 90/1200/10 next year, but with his slump coming after the bye the lack of optimism is very understandable. Looking a little deeper, it's not like the Ravens started targeting Mason instead of Boldin. In the first 7 games Mason was on pace for 59 rec, in the last 9 he was on pace for 62. During this time Housh's targets went from 3.4 to 3.7 so nothing noticeable there. Mason's targets were similar, too. Why Boldin's targets and receptions dropped is a mystery to me. For now I'm going to have to assume they utlitize him a little better next year as Housh is likely gone and Mason will be 37. I don't expect a lot out of the rookies. If a FA is unexpectedly brought in then all bets are off.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

I figured Boldin's numbers would take a hit doing from Arizona to Baltimore and they did. His receptions dropped significantly, even more so when you look at it on a per game basis. His TD's are around the same as he's still a redzone threat due to his size but as most figured, Baltimore is not a passing team first. I see a similar season for Anquan Boldin who did finish the season playing all 16 games, something he's had trouble doing for much of his career.

rzrback77 said:

Thus far the free agent frenzy has really added to the prospects for Q Boldin to have an outstanding season this year.

The Ravens cut ties with D. Mason who in 2011 had 99 targets, 61 catcches for 802 yards and 7 TDs. The also cut Todd Heap and his 64 targets for 40 catches and 599 yards and 5 TDs. Additionally, they lost McGahee who although not featured much as a receicer had 99 rushing attempts in 2011. This could push Ray Rice's rushing opportunities upward and might reduce some of his targets.

A season ago, Boldin started well, but slowed in the second half of the season, yet most of the roster moves thus far signal more focus on him for this year. The big IF, is whether the 2nd year TEs and the rookie WRs are efficient enough to open some space. If they do, then I see Boldin's role growing significantly, particularly at the goal line.


Anquan Boldin projections

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Mark Wimer801070700
Message board consensus75962800