2019 Fantasy Football Fallout: Doug Baldwin Retires

By Chet Gresham – @ChetGresham
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Doug Baldwin’s career was absolutely great when you consider he came into the league as an undrafted free agent, but he also was short-changed, as he dealt with multiple injuries and while he was healthy, his team wouldn’t throw the ball despite starting one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past, but we sure can try to predict the future, and with Baldwin hanging up his cleats after numerous surgeries this offseason, there will be opportunities in Seattle for receivers to fill the void he leaves behind.

The No. 1 void-filler is someone already accustomed to taking on a bigger role due to Baldwin missing time, Tyler Lockett. That bigger role didn’t show up in the way of targets, but in efficient targets, which led to Lockett scoring 10 touchdowns on 57 receptions last year. He became Russell Wilson’s go-to receiver with Baldwin playing through injuries, and on this Seahawks team, targets usually correlate into receptions and production.

Last season, Seattle threw the fewest passes in the league with just 427, but Wilson ranked third in touchdown passes with 35. In 2017, he ranked sixth in pass attempts with 553, but had fewer touchdown passes with 34, which led the league. Of course, with more passes and overall plays, Wilson had more receiving and rushing yards, which is needed for his fantasy greatness, but receivers are still getting those coveted touchdowns, and will continue to make for strong standard-league fantasy plays despite the run-first game plan. Lockett needed just 70 targets last year to finish 11th in standard leagues and 16th in PPR leagues, based on his double-digit touchdown numbers.

We can worry about Lockett regressing to a more average touchdown-to-reception percentage, but Wilson and this run-first offense aren’t going to give up their efficiency numbers very easily. The Seahawks are again set up for explosive touchdown plays off of play action, and Lockett will be the main benefactor once again, especially with more consistent targets as the no-doubt No. 1.

After Lockett, the receiver list gets long and jumbled. Baldwin led the team with 73 targets in 2018, but Lockett beat his numbers in every other statistic. David Moore wasn’t nearly as efficient as Lockett, but he did manage to put up some huge plays that led to 26 receptions from 52 targets for 445 yards and five touchdowns, for 17.1 yards per reception. The Jaron Brown, who only saw 20 targets, caught 14 of those for 166 yards and five touchdowns. Now that is efficiency.

Then, the Seahawks went out and drafted D.K. Metcalf after trading away a third- and fourth-round pick to grab the last choice in the second round to select him. His speed and power on the outside will go well with play action and Wilson’s ability to avoid the pass rush and hit men deep. Metcalf will also help Lockett, who should see softer coverage out of the slot with Metcalf’s ability off the line, pushing defenses to bring help over the middle. Will Metcalf be more decoy than consistent play-maker? That is quite possible, as he still has work to do, but his strengths are what Seattle want out of him, at least early in his career.

Metcalf should be a replacement for Moore, as Metcalf should quickly step in front of him and Moore will gain more competition from other draftee, Gary Jennings. I expect Moore to win that competition, but that would still put him behind Metcalf and Lockett, and we could see Moore come off the field if talented, but undrafted free agent, receiver John Ursua can win time in the slot, moving Lockett outside and likely pushing Moore to the bench.

Baldwin often was the motor for Seattle’s offense for much of his career, but there was no doubt that his injuries caught up with him last season, and his absence could be a net gain for the passing offense this year or at least help the team break even. I expect Russell Wilson to again not run or throw the ball as much as he has in the past, which will hurt his total fantasy numbers, but still place him toward the end of the fantasy QB1s. If the defense takes a hit this year, we could see Wilson needed more often as a passer and runner when trailing, so there is a path to higher upside, but Seattle remained a good defense last season after losing key players and committing more to slowing the game down with the run. The odds favor a similar game plan this year.

Metcalf is a wild card as a rookie. I’m more on board than some, as I do think he fits this offense well and will take over a productive David Moore role, but with more work from the start. Metcalf is risky for sure and his name recognition could make him go earlier in drafts than he should, so drafting him will be a case-by-case transaction for me.

The biggest beneficiary will be Tyler Lockett, as he should see more targets, easier coverage with Metcalf outside and continue his efficient play. We can’t expect a locked-in WR1 season out of him in this offense, but he becomes a safe WR2 in both standard and PPR, with upside as a WR1 in standard leagues.

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