Why Doug Baldwin Is Insanely Undervalued in Fantasy Football

With Golden Tate gone to Detroit, is Doug Baldwin worth a late-round flier in fantasy drafts this season?

Even though it’s still only June, hardcore fantasy football owners are well on their way to formulating a strategy to draft a winning team come August. Depending on your league format and how you value each position will determine how you go about your business on draft day.

Some owners will use their early-round picks on running backs, due to the perceived scarcity of high-quality options at the position. Others will go heavy at wide receiver and wait until the middle rounds to essentially throw darts at a group of running backs, assuming there is safety inherent in upper-echelon pass-catchers.

And there will always be someone who has an undying allegiance to big-freakish tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski - many will choose to build their teams around the weekly mismatches they provide.

No matter what strategy you decide to roll with though, it’s always important to find value in the later rounds of your draft. Guys you find in the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds can sometimes mean the difference between playing and watching when your league’s championship week comes around.

And one potential value producer who's being generally overlooked according to early average draft position information is Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Teach Me How To Dougie

At 5’10” 189 pounds, Baldwin doesn't exactly fit the prototypical NFL receiver profile. Built to be a slot-type receiver, you might not expect a player of Baldwin’s stature to be able to handle a team’s number one receiver role. However, in Super Bowl 48, that’s exactly what Baldwin did.

You probably remember how dominant Seattle’s defense was against the Broncos in a game the Seahawks won convincingly 43-8. And although the Seahawks passing game wasn't crazy-prolific in the win, Baldwin ended up the teams’ leading receiver with 5 catches, 66 yards and a touchdown on just 5 targets.

Even though last year’s Super Bowl has no real relevance to fantasy football, it's important for one reason; in the biggest game of his life, Doug Baldwin assumed the top receiver role for Seattle - a title I believe he has a good chance of retaining in 2014.

In order to show how good Baldwin was from a real-football perspective last season, we can use numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. This metric looks at a player’s on-field effectiveness given different down-and-distance situations during a game. Below are the relevant Seahawks’ pass-catchers from 2013, ranked according to their Reception NEP, which measures the number of points added by a receiver on catches only.

PlayerTargetsRec. NEPRec. NEP per Target
Golden Tate9975.210.76
Doug Baldwin7369.530.95
Zach Miller5640.860.73
Jermaine Kearse3835.480.93
Sidney Rice3518.860.54
Luke Willson2818.070.65

Although Baldwin finished second to Golden Tate in overall Reception NEP, Baldwin was the Seahawks’ most-efficient receiver on a per-target basis last season, followed closely by second-year receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Not only did Baldwin excel compared to his teammates, but he was quietly one of the best mid-level usage receivers in all of football last year. Among all NFL players with 50 to 100 targets last season, Baldwin’s 0.95 Rec. NEP per target ranked fourth out of 100 qualifying players, behind only Kenny Stills, Marvin Jones and Jerricho Cotchery.

Now with Tate signing in Detroit during the off-season, it’s our next task to determine how his 99 targets will be distributed in 2014.

Baldwin's "Golden" Opportunity?

The most obvious name absent from the previous table is Percy Harvin. Harvin is currently being drafted as the 16th wide receiver in early mocks this season. 4for4’s C.D. Carter showed why it’s highly unlikely Harvin will return value at his current ADP (4.05 according to Fantasy Football Calculator.)

While Harvin can be very dangerous when on the field, his lack of consistency remains a question mark moving forward. If other owners in your league are willing to bet on Harvin being a consistent WR1, you’d be wise to let them take their chances while you target value elsewhere.

It’s possible that Jermaine Kearse, who had an impressive 2013 season relative to his usage, could take a step forward and demand a larger role in the passing game. Incoming rookie Paul Richardson - who some scouts see great potential in - could also make an early splash. And you always have the oft-injured Sidney Rice still in the mix after re-signing in the off-season.

With all that being said though, Baldwin still appears to have the least amount of unknowns surrounding him in regards to becoming the number two receiving option, assuming a healthy Harvin.

It's All About Value

Does all of this mean Doug Baldwin is going to produce WR1 or WR2 fantasy numbers in 2014? Not necessarily. But if you’re drafting Baldwin somewhere after the 12th round, that’s not what you are expecting to get from him anyways. If you can get a possible 100 target guy that late in your fantasy drafts who has proven to be capable when given the opportunity, he is well worth the flier.

With Golden Tate gone, Russell Wilson one year improved, and a lot of uncertainty surrounding the other receiving options in Seattle, it’s possible for Baldwin to find the 70 catch, 800 yard, 7 touchdown range – an overwhelming value for his late-round price tag.

Although there’s no single approach guaranteed to win your fantasy football league, a good place to start is by identifying players going in the later rounds who have the potential to greatly out-perform their draft position. Doug Baldwin is certainly a guy who fits that mold, and is worth considering late in your drafts.