Doug Baldwin: Model of Consistency and a Fantasy WR1 - Footballguys

A tour through the 2018 fantasy outlook for Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin

Much More of a Dynamo Than You Think

Dating back to 2015, the NFL has seen 81 full-time wide receivers draw 150 regular-season targets or more. Of that crop, only one has managed to:

  • Play in all 48 games
  • Catch 70% (or better) of his targets
  • Score a touchdown on at least 8% of his targets
  • Register 60 yards or more in at least 48% of his appearances

It's not Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, or Odell Beckham Jr Jr. – the first three receivers selected in virtually any 2018 fantasy draft.

It's not Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, or A.J. Green – all rock-solid WR1s who will fly off the board in Round 2.

It's none other than Seattle's Doug Baldwin, who's resembled a robot programmed to produce reliable, and often dynamic, fantasy numbers. Over that 3-year span, Baldwin has generated 15.32 PPR (point-per-reception) points per game, 12th-best among qualifiers. There hasn't been much variance, either – he's finished those seasons as the WR11, WR8, and WR13 in PPR formats.

Yet, in 2018 drafts, he's often placed on the back burner in favor of options with “more ceiling.” But since 2015, the book on Baldwin has been one of remarkable consistency – as well as league-winning upside. And entering his eighth NFL season, Baldwin's outlook is as strong as ever. He'll again serve as the engine driving the Seattle receiving corps, and if his current stretch is to be believed, he'll also rival several more-heralded WR1s in terms of touchdown upside. As a result, he actually looks like the safest play from the early-Round 3 range – and an ideal fantasy WR1.

Valuing a Crowded ADP Range

Across 2018 fantasy drafts, players are almost universally presented with the same options early in Round 3. Those seeking out a second-tier WR1 are typically asked to choose among Baldwin, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, and Adam Thielen. And as of late July, Baldwin is definitively losing the ADP battle to two of them. But it's unclear exactly why. He leads the pack in general efficiency:

Catch Rate
Touchdown Rate

And he's right in line in terms of productivity, as well:


Many drafters leap at Evans or Adams based on expectations of huge touchdown totals, and that's fair – both have proven capable of scoring double-digit touchdowns. But so has Baldwin – he's done it just as dynamically, and with far more consistency across his overall game.

In fact, entering 2018, Baldwin carries the best situational outlook of the four. His volume looks secure, as will be detailed below. And he retains the same strong quarterback play he's enjoyed for his entire career. As a result, he looks like the optimal choice in this sticky predicament. Let's walk through these battles, one by one, to see if there's a snap judgment that clearly outpaces Baldwin.

Baldwin vs. Evans

Evans carries a stronger pedigree as a 6-foot-5, 231-pound former first-round pick. And while he's a similar volume prospect, the gap in efficiency between these two has been massive. Evans boasts an anemic 53.2% catch rate as a pro – just 52.2% last year – wasting much of that volume. Much of Evans' appeal lies in his touchdown potential – he caught 12 touchdowns in each 2014 and 2016 – but it's not reliable at all. Over his other two seasons, Evans has scored just 8 times over 30 games. It's easy to see why: he's been subpar in short yardage, catching just 16 of his 35 targets from inside the 10-yard line. And despite his physical prowess, only 21% of his receptions have gone for 20 yards or more. Baldwin, on the other hand, has caught 9 of 17 from within 10 yards and produced 20-yard gains on 34% of his catches over the last 3 years. Baldwin wins on reliability alone, and his upside is similarly dynamic.

Baldwin vs. Adams

Adams is a solid NFL receiver, and he did produce impressively without Aaron Rodgers last year. But he's also a particularly shaky prospect for an early-third pick. Through 4 NFL seasons, he's still looking for his first 1,000-yard campaign, and only once has he averaged more than 12.0 yards per catch. Drafters are intrigued by Adams' touchdown numbers (22 over his last 30 games), as well as the Packers' loss of Jordy Nelson. But Adams has actually produced much more with Nelson next to him; he could struggle in 2018 with minimal help on the other side. He'll also compete for redzone attention with new addition Jimmy Graham, who drew 16 targets from inside the 10 last year and could put a damper on that touchdown prowess. Baldwin wins the target battle here, and again, carries a similar ceiling for touchdowns.

Baldwin vs. Thielen

The undrafted Thielen has roared onto the NFL scene, catching 160 passes for 2,342 yards and 9 scores over the last 2 years. It's hard to knock him much, but it's definitely worth taking to heart that he'll team with a new quarterback in 2018. He'll pair with another ball-dominant, ascending superstar in Stefon Diggs, and it's still too early to project the Vikings' priorities with Kirk Cousins under center. There's plenty of upside to both Thielen and Diggs, but at this stage of the offseason, drafters should be chasing these two from a value standpoint. Thielen requires a premium pick, typically a full round higher than Diggs, so he's tough to slot here. Baldwin has no such concerns – he retains the same (elite) quarterback he's always caught from, and his competition has largely left town.

What to Expect When You're Projecting

Drafters can be confident in Baldwin's floor, which has been steady and even for years, so evaluating his ceiling is crucial. The upside game is what will draw the distinction between Baldwin as a WR1 to target at the Round 2/3 turn, and merely a face among the next tier of receivers.

And from a volume standpoint, things look bright for 2018. The Seahawks' retooling of their receiving corps amounted to nothing more than swapping the dynamic Graham and Richardson for a handful of low-end free agents. In fact, they've lost a whopping 198 targets from 2017 – nearly 36% of their load – and haven't added any reinforcements of note.

As a result, Seattle looks undermanned, at best, entering training camp. Lockett has proven to be explosive but doesn't seem built for a high-volume role, even in the starting lineup. He'll fill several niches on the field and should provide great value to the Seahawks, but he won't merely absorb Richardson's workload and threaten 120 targets.

And beyond him, it's a free-for-all. Whereas the 2017 Seahawks used Graham extensively in the slot, this year's group lacks a clear vision there, with as many as 3-4 names in the mix to divvy up the role. Darboh likely has the inside track on the No. 3 job, but he's not a candidate to take on relevant work. He was a marginal mid-round prospect last year, and he drew just 13 targets over 191 rookie snaps. Brown is a safer roster bet than Marshall at this point, as he brings special teams value to the table, but he never broke through in Arizona. Brown has caught just 46% of his career targets, with wild swings in productivity – last year, 37% of his yardage came over a pair of early weeks. Marshall looks like a coin flip to make the roster, and he certainly doesn't profile as much of a target thief in his present state. He looked barely-rosterable over his short Giants tenure.

There are other peripheral options in this offense, of course, but none that look poised to steal many looks from Baldwin. Scatbacks C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic have proven viable targets out of the backfield; they'll also see a bit of time in the slot. But both are limited niche players, and theirs isn't a role that looks to expand. There's little dynamism left at the tight end spot, where Ed Dickson will serve in more of a blocking-intensive role and second-year man Nick Vannett will mix in. The duo won't even approach Graham's usage, and Baldwin's lockdown of the target shares looks even more secure. A leap back into 125-130 target territory seems likely.

Final Thoughts

All told, the Seahawks have lost a hefty chunk of their 2017 target load, and they've put little in place to fill it in. Baldwin now boasts a tremendous fantasy floor – as the runaway No. 1 man, his low-end projection is essentially the exact production we've seen over the last three years. One way or another, Baldwin looks poised to keep producing at a fantasy WR1 level, and that doesn't come as confidently with his ADP-mates.

The general take on Baldwin is that he's a boring option, one who offers consistency but lacks the ceiling of those peers. That the inconsistent Seattle offense will keep him grounded, and that his 2015 touchdown explosion was a one-off event. Upside chasers will likely be more interested in Evans, Adams, and perhaps even Thielen with their third-round pick. But shrewd drafters know that, in Baldwin, they'll land a similar ceiling with a stronger, more palatable floor.

2018 Staff Projections

PPR FanPts
David Dodds
Maurile Tremblay
Bob Henry
Jason Wood
Justin Howe

Other Viewpoints

Our Shark Pool Community is generally sky-high on Baldwin:

There are a lot of targets, and more importantly touchdowns, up for grabs in the Seattle passing game. I do think they are serious about running the ball more, but when you ranked 20th in rushing attempts last year (and how many of those came from the QB?), it's hard to not run more. I think Baldwin stands to see a slight bump in targets… I think Baldwin has always suffered from "middle child syndrome." he's not the big name top 5 pick, but he's also not the sexy rookie/ second-year guy everyone is obsessed over. He does his job day in and day out. He is a "blue collar" WR IMO. Does his job quietly and does it well.member Dr. Dan

Baldwin is the perfect guy you wait for at WR. Since 2015, only Antonio Brown has more touchdowns amongst WR's. And he's an undisputed WR1 on a team with a legit passer. Yet, year after year, he gets under-drafted. His ADP suggests the FF world is catching on. But save for injury, he's as consistent as they come, and with Graham/Richardson departed, some upside exists as well.member TheDirtyWord

Rob Wilson of FantasyCPR also sees the WR1 appeal:

Baldwin is one of the most consistent players in a fantasy football draft and his outlook for 2018 is beautiful. He finished as the WR8 in 2016 and was going off the board in the early-second round. The only thing that changed in 2017 was Jimmy Graham stepping up and taking an enormous percentage of targets inside the red zone [a Rob Gronkowski-like 36%]… Nothing about the upcoming season projects any differently than his 2016 campaign, where he finished as a top-10 fantasy asset. He's seen over 110 targets in each of the last two years and remains Russell Wilson's best friend when times are tough. The first receiver on your fantasy team should have a high floor, projected upside, and a great quarterback. Check, check, double check.