They call him "Angry Doug Baldwin" because he seemingly can't catch a break with media, coaches, or fans that don't believe he's all that good, and that clearly upsets him. The chip on his shoulder that has followed him from at least as early as high school to even after his team won a Super Bowl.
It's honestly not hard to see why few believed that Baldwin could make it this far.
He didn't even have 700 yards as a senior at Gulf Breeze High in Florida. He was recruited to play football at Stanford when they were a 1-11 football team. He had 93 yards as a freshman, 332 yards as a sophomore, and 78 yards as a junior.
As a senior he had 857 yards and nine touchdowns, but many would attribute that success to All-American QB Andrew Luck.
He wasn't drafted, he wasn't given much of a chance to make the Seahawks after they had reloaded their receiving corps with a number of bigger names before him. Big contracts for players like Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, and second-year pro Golden Tate. A surprising rookie season was followed up by a forgettable sophomore slump, and even a rebound in year three had Hall of Fame receivers calling him just an "appetizer" before the Super Bowl.
But others would say that apps is the best course of any meal.
Well, Baldwin is goin' Sizzler after signing a two-year contract extension that will pay him up to $13 million. It might be a small deal compared to some of the other contracts we've seen handed out recently in Seattle and for receivers around the league, but it's certainly not a small deal. Before yesterday, Baldwin had played out his UDFA deal that paid him mid-six figures, and was only looking at about $2.2 million guaranteed on his restricted free agent tender. Had he gotten hurt, or just played poorly in 2014, that could be the end of his NFL pay.
It's not that crazy to think of Baldwin fading away, when you consider that names like Miles Austin and Kenny Britt have become free agent afterthoughts so quickly themselves. Now Baldwin has a minimum of $9 million guaranteed, no matter what happens to him from here on out. That's a considerable raise, and a considerably brighter future for "Fresh" when you think about how the dream could fade away at any time.
There I go again, doubting him.
Here are five things you may or may not know about Doug E Doug Baldwin, and a bonus number six.
His debut was not a weak one
When it comes to debuts for rookie receivers in Week 1, Baldwin's does stand alone in several respects. On September 11, 2011, Baldwin had four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. Though fans and coaches had high expectations for Baldwin following a strong preseason performance, I don't think anyone had expected him to be the best receiver on the team. Especially since the Seahawks had re-signed Mike Williams, signed Sidney Rice in free agency, and had high hopes for Golden Tate in his second season.
Even with Rice out against the 49ers, the starters would be Williams and Ben Obomanu. Baldwin's 83 yards were more than double either of them. Williams, Obo, and Tate combined for seven catches and 54 yards in the loss.
Though Baldwin's 83 yards in a Week 1 debut is already impressive (only 34 players have had more), consider the context; Less than six months earlier, Baldwin "was not even good enough" to be drafted. How many receivers can even start to compare to a feat like this one?
In 1960, Charley Hennigan and Bill Groman debuted for the Houston Oilers in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. Groman had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Hennigan had four catches for 85 yards and a score of his own. They were not "drafted."
However, 1960 wasn't just their debut, it was the debut of the AFL, the league for which they played. It doesn't really count as an "undrafted free agent gaining 85+ yards in Week 1" because it's entirely foreign to what it's like to debut in week one as an UDFA in the post-merger era. The AFL was a new brand of football, a league of players that had never played with or against each other in 1960, and comes with an extreme caveat compared to what we know as "the NFL" today.
Hennigan and Groman put up some impressive numbers in their day, but never played in the NFL. Jack Larscheid was an UDFA that had 105 yards and a touchdown as a rookie in Week 1 for the Raiders in the game, but not only do all those other caveats apply that I just mentioned, but Larscheid was a running back. He barely played at all after 1960, appearing only a couple times in 1961.
In 1984, UDFA Bobby Johnson debuted for the Giants in Week 1 and had eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. For all intents and purposes, it is the fifth-best Week 1 debut of all-time, and the best for an UDFA. Johnson would gain 795 yards as a rookie and helped the Giants win the Super Bowl in 1986, but only played in the league for those three seasons.
The top Week 1 debut of all-time belongs to Anquan Boldin.
What's interesting about that is that Boldin wasn't only not the first receiver drafted that year, he wasn't even the first receiver drafted by his own team. The Arizona Cardinals took Bryant Johnson in the first round, and Johnson came after "elite" prospects Charles Rogers and Andre Johnson.
Johnson and Boldin faced off against Rogers and the Lions in Week 1 and the debuts for all three went like this:
- Rogers, 38 yards and two touchdowns
- Johnson, seven yards
- Boldin, 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns
If that isn't weird enough, that Boldin had over 200 yards in his first NFL game, consider that Joey Harrington had four touchdowns and no interceptions and won. Boldin ended up having 464 yards over his first four games, which is more than Rogers had in his entire career.
And then there's Charlie Wade. He had two catches for 116 yards in his debut for the Bears in 1974. He ended up having 683 yards that season, but Wade didn't play again. He was also drafted, but he went in the 17th round as the 442nd overall pick. Which is probably later than Baldwin would've been taken if the current NFL draft had 442 picks.
(There was a time in the league where they said "Okay, now that we've drafted relevant players, let's waste the next 16 hours!") (Hmmm, that's possibly still somewhat relevant to today's NFL!)
So in the history of undrafted free agent receivers making their debut in Week 1, I'd say you have Bobby Johnson and then Baldwin. The good news for Baldwin is that his contract makes it almost certain that he will play more seasons and have a longer career than Johnson, just as soon as he hits this year's Week 1.
(It wasn't the top Seahawks debut for a receiver, but it was close. Steve Largent, a fourth round pick of the Oilers in 1976, had 86 yards for the expansion Seattle Seahawks that season.)
A clever headline about his rookie season
I once submitted an article to SBNation where I had written [insert confused Jags fan gif] as a joke, not as an instruction, but the editor actually inserted the gif. Cool story, huh?
Baldwin's rookie season in Seattle was a surprising one in many ways. He started off as a longshot to make the team and in less than a year was the number one receiver for the Seahawks. Baldwin had 788 yards as a rookie. Not just the most on the 2011 team by far, but the second-most by a rookie in franchise history. Only Joey Galloway had more, posting 1,039 yards in 1995 after being the eighth overall pick.
Largent posted 705 yards as a rookie in '76, but on a 14-game schedule.
One, Two, Tree
What do you get when you take two white rappers, Eminem (Marshall Mathers) and Everlast (Christian name is Erik Schrody) and combine a hit song from one and then from the other, take their second studio album (first as a solo act) but not the whole name of the album, just one word from it?
/pulls down on collar while profusely sweating
Notable receivers from Stanford include Ed McCaffrey, Chris Burford, James Lofton, Gene Washington, Tony Hill, and Glyn Milburn.
McCaffrey was a third round pick by the Giants in 1991, won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994, and with the Broncos in 1997 and 1998, while posting three seasons over 1,000 yards. James Lofton was the sixth overall pick by the Packers in 1978, and a Hall of Fame inductee with over 14,000 career receiving yards. At one time or another, Washington led the NFL in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and yards per reception.
The other guys I mentioned exist too.
But Baldwin stands a chance to be one of the best NFL players from Stanford of all-time, if he isn't already just based on the fact that he's in the NFL. The Cardinal weren't always so quick to import football players into the pro ranks, but in Baldwin's final season, he played with the likes of Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz, and Coby Fleener. The Orange Bowl-winning Cardinal of 2010 is one of the best college teams of recent memory, even if it was run by Jim Harbaugh.
But Harbaugh wasn't smart enough to pick up Sherman or Baldwin in the 2011 draft.
With 1,932 career receiving yards, Baldwin already has more in that category than all but nine players drafted out of Stanford in history. Though it would be surprising to see him pass Lofton, I think McCaffrey could be well in his sights.
ADB: Advanced Doug Baldwin
Receiving yards aren't easy to come by in Seattle, as you know, but Baldwin still ranks a respectable 50th in that category since 2011. He does much better in the advanced stats.
Baldwin and Tate were tied for 22nd in ProFootballFocus wide receiver grades last season, with Baldwin catching 68.5% of his targets. That ranked 18th for qualified players, just a touch behind Tate at 68.8%. His 15.6 yards per reception was 10th among receivers with at least 50 catches.
Baldwin was also one of only five players to have at least 70 targets but only two or fewer dropped passes. That's a significant improvement from where he was in his first two seasons. Though he ranked 17th in PFF grades as a rookie in 2011, he dropped seven passes according to their numbers. That was working with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, but he still took some time to develop a good working relationship with Russell Wilson; Baldwin dropped five passes on only 46 targets in 2012.
If he can continue with this trend, he could start to gain more of those traditional yards as Wilson's pass attempts go up over the next couple of years, as I believe they will.
My catches bring all the boys to DYAR
Moving over to Football Outsiders, Baldwin moves up the ranks much higher than his 778 yards would have you believe. In 2013, he was 13th in DYAR (for more on what DYAR is, check out this post) at 274. That puts him right next to the likes of Brandon Marshall and Marques Colston, and ahead of Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant, and AJ Green.
In DVOA, he was even better, posting the second-highest DVOA of any receiver in the NFL, just behind Kenny Stills.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. "Kenny, how can you make a good point when you're talking about Kenny? Stills that is. Also your name is Kenny." To which I reply, "Only my friends call me Kenny. You're still working your way up the ladder, buddy." And then you're like "Don't call me buddy then, pal." And then I'm like, "You know what, you're allllllright."
DVOA isn't perfect and if DVOA were the end-all measurement for receivers, Baldwin wouldn't have signed a deal with a max value of $13 million. It still shows that Stills shows great value on the 51 targets he received, just like Baldwin did with his opportunities. What DVOA does is say, "Hey, on a per-play basis, you were this much better or worse than an average receiver." Baldwin made the most of his opportunities, but the reason he's not as valuable as someone like Antonio Brown, who was 15th in DVOA but fifth in DYAR, is that Brown received more than twice the number of opportunities.
Does Baldwin have the potential to be a "Brown" one day? Yes, maybe. And not just by signing with Cleveland, am I absolutely correct on that one my fine fellows and ladies?
Baldwin has given us hints that he could become a highly-productive receiver worthy of 150 targets, but at this time, the Seahawks don't use anyone for 150 targets. They prefer to spread it out, run the football, and keep defenses guessing.
I Doug your style
I think most people would agree that Doug is one of the top names out there. It's got a childlike wonderment, but not too childlike. Who are some of the best Dougs around?
There's Doug E. Fresh, the human beatboxer/rapper that Baldwin borrows a nickname from. One of the original MC's of hip hop, Fresh broke new ground for aspiring rappers much like how the new Fresh broke ground for how we perceive undrafted free agents.
Another guy who took advantage of an "E" initial middle name was Doug E. Doug. He's starred in a number of movies and television shows, but I think his best role had to be as Sanka in Cool Runnings. As we all know, Cool Runnings is a true story about an underdog bobsled team that competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. I think it's fair to say that Baldwin was a major underdog coming onto the 2011 Seahawks, but has managed to have a bigger impact on the team than any of the other receivers on the roster that year, as well as many of the 28 receivers drafted in 2011.
There's one of the coolest cool dudes of American history, general Douglas MacArthur. Doug Baldwin is also a cool dude but I just want to point out that General MacArthur's father's name was Arthur.
Which is also my new rap moniker.
Of course, Baldwin is having an impact on the youth of Seattle. He's many kids favorite player, I'm sure. Much how like the TV show Doug had an impact on millions of us in childhood, and still has me whistlin' to this day. Doug's best friend was named Skeeter, and Doug Baldwin skeeted all over the 49ers in the NFC title game.