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Russell Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin still the best deep connection of the last decade

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While many have focused on what weapons the Seattle Seahawks have lost recently, namely Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, little has been said about what Russell Wilson still has in the fold. In fact, what he still has is his top two weapons from the offense when Wilson dominated the league — as well as any quarterback ever has — in the final seven games of the 2015 season: Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

Though Lockett has underwhelmed over the last two seasons, he had 30 catches for 404 yards and five touchdowns during that stretch (over 16 games that would be 69/923/11) and he still wasn’t Wilson’s number one threat. That would be Baldwin, of course, who did this during those seven games: 40/590/11.

Doug Baldwin caught 11 touchdowns in seven games and if you go back one more game, he had 7/134/1 against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9. His second half of 2015 is then paced out to these numbers for a full season:

94 catches, 1448 yards, and 24 touchdowns.

Baldwin hasn’t come close to those touchdown numbers in the last two seasons, but he’s still had 15 scores total, and he did catch 94 passes in 2016. All told, Baldwin has escaped the funk he and Wilson had during Wilson’s rookie season (Baldwin had just 366 yards that season) and become the best slot receiver in the NFL, Wilson’s number one target, and a steady option for an elite quarterback who hasn’t missed a game.

Going back to 2013, Baldwin ranks eighth among all players in yards/target (9.32) and sixth in catch rate (70.6%) among receivers and tight ends. The only other players to average at least 9 Y/T and 70% catches are Tyreek Hill (on 326 fewer targets), Hunter Henry (again, not experienced), and Travis Kelce. That makes Baldwin the only receiver with at least 200 targets since 2013 to hit these marks, with the next-closest player being the best receiver in the NFL: Antonio Brown.

Brown averages 9.15 Y/T and has a catch rate of 67.8%.

I would never argue Baldwin over Brown — Brown’s skills allow him to be targeted way more often, resulting in a much higher and consistent rate of production — but surprisingly Baldwin has scored more often per target than Brown has: Baldwin scores once every 13.89 targets, compared to once every 16.5 for Brown. (This is all in the 2013-2017 spectrum.)

That’s one reason why, as PFF noted, Wilson-to-Baldwin has been one of the best connections in NFL history, and not just in short-to-intermediate throws. In fact, Wilson-to-Baldwin has the highest passer rating in the league of any duo since 2006 on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.

Wilson-to-Baldwin just beat out Phil Rivers to Antonio Gates, Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald, Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton and Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. Interestingly, names like Baldwin, Gates, and Hilton really show how much the game has adapted and changed in the last 20 years with slot receivers, smaller receivers, and tight ends often dominating as deep threats.

Baldwin has been no exception. Not just in short throws, but downfield too, and that’s something Wilson hasn’t lost in 2018.