Written by DFW contributor Mark Preston : FOLLOW MARK ON TWITTER: @Mark_DFW
One of the main allures of fantasy football is that it gives the average fan an arena to prove they can be a legendary GM. In the era of ESPN, Twitter, and the countless other sources of football knowledge, the average fan is no longer limited to knowing only the best player’s name on NFL teams, but can now quickly find out who the 2nd and 3rd string guys are. The difference between the well versed football fan and skilled fantasy expert is the ability to recognize special talent in an athlete while everyone else has them pegged as “raw” or “developmental”. Whether it is Arian Foster, Jimmy Graham, or even DeMarco Murray the evidence is there. If you put in the work and learn what to look for, you can come away that elusive diamond in the rough.
One of last year’s breakout players is still not getting the respect he deserves, and can still be had at a value. Doug Baldwin became the first un-drafted free agent wide receiver to lead his team in receptions and receiving yards since Bill Groman in 1960. In a run heavy offense, with turmoil at the QB position, Doug put-up solid fantasy numbers: 51 Receptions, 788 yards, 4 TDs, with 15.5 yards per reception average.
So how could you predict such numbers from someone who wasn’t even drafted? Simple, think outside the box. Andrew Luck received a ton of positive press because he was coming out of a pro-style offense with route-trees similar to those found in the NFL. Why should that only apply to him? Doug benefited from the same education and it showed. He was ready to contribute from day one. In Baldwin’s senior year, he was Luck’s favorite target, finishing with 58 receptions for 857 yards and 9 TDs. His 857 yards were 418 yards more than the next closest receiver.
Baldwin did not receive an invite to the combine, but he did post some impressive numbers on his pro-day: 4.47 40-yard dash, 37” vertical, 10’3” Broad jump, 4.26 shuttle and 6.65 3-cone drill. Now let’s compare this to a top performer at this year’s combine, Julio Jones. Julio posted a 4.39 40-yard dash (fastest), 38.5″ vertical, 11’3” broad jump (best), 4.25 shuttle, and 6.66 3-cone drill. As you can see, in several events, their numbers are similar. That is impressive, considering Julio is 6 inches taller than Doug. Despite the height advantage, Doug nearly matched his vertical leap. Julio’s combine performance was widely considered the most impressive at the 2011 combine and Doug matched him in three of these 5 events.
Baldwin proved on Sundays that he can get it done and, as you can see by his pro day numbers, he has the measurable to be an NFL wide receiver. Now let’s take a look at his situation coming into the 2012 season. Following the Seahawks this off-season, all signs are pointing towards great things for Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks released Big Mike Williams and have brought in Matt Flynn to compete for, and ultimately, secure the QB position. Flynn has been working tirelessly with Doug even commenting,”[Baldwin is] a very dynamic guy. I’ve been throwing to him for only two months but I can already see how he’s a special player and will be around for a long time.” Pensacola News Journal Just a couple of days ago Seattle signed Terrell Owens to a 1 year deal. This is more of a reflection on Sidney Rice’s status and recent reports suggest he will not be ready to start the season. Rice’s injuries are a major concern, but a major opportunity for Baldwin.
In 15 games, Sidney Rice had 49 receptions and 4 touchdowns. At first glance, that doesn’t sound bad, but then when you consider those are his totals over the past two years combined, you see the problem. Rice just can’t stay healthy over a whole season, and isn’t much of a threat to Baldwin. Taking all these factors into consideration, I’m projecting Doug to catch between 85-100 passes for close to 1000 yards and 6-10 touchdowns. His numbers could easily surpass that, especially if Lynch misses significant time. I was fortunate enough to get Doug to agree to an interview.
We want to give a special thanks to Doug Baldwin @DougBaldwinJr for answering a few questions for us, here you can see some of his thoughts on what makes him such a threat to improve on last year’s breakout season. Disclaimer, this interview was before the signing of TO and Braylon.
How did playing at Stanford with Andrew Luck prepare you for the NFL? Do you feel like you were better prepared as a receiver coming out of the pro-style offense?
“Not so much just playing with Andrew, but my whole experience at Stanford has prepared me for life in the professional ranks. Obviously, playing with a #1 overall pick has its ups, specifically the national attention and exposure. The West Coast offense, being a pro-style offense, was vital to my development as I made my transition from college to the NFL. Being exposed to this offense at the college level definitely aided my ability to contribute right away once I arrived in Seattle.”
What has been the toughest part about playing professionally in Seattle while your family and your friends are across the country living in Florida?
“The toughest part of being so far away is the fact that I am very close to my family, being in the opposite corner of the United States makes it very difficult to plan trips back home because of the large time commitment to traveling. However, we have made it work.”
What current Seahawk do you view as the big play threat? Who is your possession go to guy?
“When I look at our receiving core, I believe that there isn’t one guy who stands out as the ‘big play threat.’ Everyone on the team that plays the wide receiver position has the ability to make big plays and be a key possession guy when we need them to be. That’s what makes our group special in my opinion.”
Who do you have pegged as the next breakout fantasy star like you were last year for this year’s Seahawks?
“Deon Butler or Golden Tate. Both of these guys have all-star potential and excel extremely well in pressure moments. With opportunities becoming available and both guys coming back from injuries the sky is the limit for their skill sets.”
Who was your favorite football player growing up?
“My favorite football player was Thurman Thomas. I loved the Buffalo Bills growing up for whatever strange reason.”
What is your most Memorable football moment at any point in your life?
“Most memorable moment would have to be sitting in a Mexican restaurant watching the NFL Draft come to an end without my name being called. It was a shock to my pride, to my confidence, but it didn’t deter me from finding a way to reach my dreams.”
What was your most memorable play from last year?
“Blocking a punt on Monday night football. It was the first time in my career I had blocked a kick. We scored a touchdown on the same play. We won the game. I was able to represent on national television for my family and my home town. It was an amazing play, game, and memory.”
With the talent of Baldwin, Tate, and Rice on the outside and teams already focusing on the running game of the Seahawks, great things could be in store for Doug if Matt Flynn can Produce Top 15 type numbers from the QB position. Baldwin is one injury or one more good season away from taking over the number 1 spot in Seattle, and with his work ethic, desire to win, and over all talent once he is given the spot he will not let it go.