Sleeper Alert: Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin

Aug 12, 2014
Sleeper Alert: Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin

I’ve been tooting Doug Baldwin’s horn all offseason – man, that sounds bad – so I thought it time to issue an official Sleeper Alert for the underappreciated Seahawk receiver.

Baldwin went undrafted out of college in 2011 after finishing a fairly quiet four-year career at Stanford. He did have a good senior season, catching 58 passes for 857 yards and nine touchdowns, but at just 5’10” and with good-but-not-great-speed (4.48 40-yard dash), he apparently didn’t merit a draft pick.

No matter. Baldwin was signed by the savvy Seahawks GM John Schneider to a three-year deal worth $1.4 million. As a rookie, he proceeded to lead the team in receptions (51), yards (788) and touchdowns (4), while also posting the second-most receiving yards by an undrafted receiver since 2000.

His second season was a disappointment – he caught just 29 passes for 366 yards and three TDs, playing third fiddle to (a finally healthy) Sidney Rice and (an emerging) Golden Tate.

After that sophomore slump, Baldwin entered the 2013 season as a mostly forgotten man, and although he had three 8-plus point scoring efforts (standard) in his first eight games, he didn’t take off until Week 9, when he started to see consistent starter-type snaps after Rice went down (in Week 8). In his final 11 games, including the postseason, Baldwin averaged 3.6 catches for 55 yards and 0.45 TDs, which extrapolate to about what Mike Wallace scored as the #26 WR in 2013.

The main thing standing in Baldwin’s way in his three-year career has been consistent playing time. Take a look at his career splits below:

Split G Rec Tgt Yds TD Snap % PPG Equates to
Starter 17 3.1 5.1 43.9 0.47 74% 7.2 WR34
Reserve 34 2.8 4.2 42.1 0.15 51% 5.1 WR57
< 60% Snaps 22 2.5 4.0 37.9 0.18 39% 4.9 WR59
> 60% Snaps 29 3.2 4.9 46.4 0.31 74% 6.5 WR40
> 70% Snaps 16 3.4 5.1 51.5 0.50 81% 8.2 WR26
With Rice 33 2.6 4.3 39.4 0.15 54% 4.8 WR60
Without Rice 18 3.3 4.9 48.8 0.44 67% 7.6 WR31

When Baldwin was on the field for the first play of the game (i.e. he got the start), he averaged #34 WR numbers. When Sidney Rice was out of the lineup, Baldwin averaged #31 WR numbers. When he played 70%-plus snaps, he averaged #26 WR numbers.

That last split is the key to me. Over those final 11 games of 2013, Baldwin played 82% of the snaps, which is very close to the 81% average in that 70%-plus split.

This is the sort of playing time I expect Baldwin to see in 2014. Sidney Rice has retired and the Seahawks let Tate sign with the Lions. Baldwin was a restricted free agent this summer, but Seattle locked him up to a three-year deal worth $13 million, so while they didn’t break the bank, they clearly view him as a starter. (His salary is the 45th-highest at his position, so he’s being paid as a real-world WR2.)

Percy Harvin is back and will likely lead the team in targets provided he can stay healthy. This has been a problem for him – Harvin has missed 31% of his team’s games – so Baldwin would see an even bigger share of the targets if Harvin were to go down again.

Also, notice that Baldwin’s targets are fairly low for a player of his (fantasy) caliber. This is a function of the extreme efficiency with which the Seattle passing game operates. They tend to run and run and run, and then they’ll hit the defense with a big play in the passing game. With quarterback Russell Wilson gaining the full trust of the coaching staff, it’s entirely possible that the team ramps up the passing game, and if that happens (even a little), Baldwin will likely benefit.

Where Should He Be Drafted?

Our ADP is currently showing him at 13.12. In the (relatively sharp) MFL10 leagues, he’s going 13.09 (#60 WR off the board). In the (not as sharp) MFL redraft leagues, he’s going 15.10 (#69). He’s not even on the board over at Fantasy Football Calculator. Go figure.

So this means that, like most quality sleepers, owners can draft Baldwin quite a bit later in home leagues that maybe aren’t as sharp as other leagues you might find.

We currently have him ranked #48 in standard and #50 in PPR, which I believe is rather conservative given his career output when playing starter’s snaps. This would give him 10th or 11th round value, depending on the format.

He’s not going to produce quality numbers in a big workload each and every week, but he should see enough targets in an efficient Seattle passing game to be a solid fantasy WR3, and if things break his way (another Harvin injury, increased pass attempts for Wilson, etc.), he’ll have upside from there.

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