The first year of Russell Wilson’s career was perhaps as exciting for Wilson fans as it was concerning for Doug Baldwin fans. After leading the team in receiving yards as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2011, Baldwin’s numbers plummeted in year two, resulting in 29 catches, 366 yards, and three touchdowns. His yards per catch dropped from 15.5 to 12.6.
For a guy who again, was undrafted, it had to spark the “one-year wonder” doubts for many. Especially since by the end of the season, the Seahawks were the hottest team in the NFL despite little production from Baldwin. Part of that had to do with injury: Baldwin missed the entire preseason with a hamstring issue. This is important time to miss going into only your second year and he struggled to get on track all season.
At times, he was still making plays like this one:
Baldwin caught two of his three touchdowns that day in a 42-13 route of the San Francisco 49ers. Not all was lost, but it would have been hard to defend the argument that much more would be found.
In reality, a lot more was found. A potential Hall of Fame receiver was found, and the foundation of that production was surprisingly enough the relationship between him and Wilson. They’ve been the best QB-WR duo of the last five years and here are the numbers Wilson posts when he has targeted Baldwin since their Super Bowl-winning season:
49-of-72, 743 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT, 10.3 Y/A
66-of-98, 825 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 8.4 Y/A
78-of-103, 1,069 yards, 14 TD, 2 INT, 10.4 Y/A
89-of-119, 1,070 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT, 9 Y/A
75-of-116, 991 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT, 8.5 Y/A
Last 5 years total:
357-of-508, 4,698 yards, 35 TD, 12 INT, 9.24 Y/A
It may come as a surprise to tag “Hall of Fame” potential next to Baldwin’s name because he doesn’t put up 1,500-yard seasons, but his efficiency is practically unmatched by any other receiver in the NFL. Since 2013, Baldwin’s Yards/Target of 9.32 is ranked 4th overall among receivers, behind only DeSean Jackson, Julio Jones, and Kenny Stills. That type of Y/T is usually reserved for “big play” receivers like those ones, but big play receivers like those ones typically also carry low catch rates.
Jackson is at 59.6%
Jones is at 64.4%
Stills is at 58.1%
But Doug Baldwin is a slot receiver. He is one of the few players that carries the traits of both a “hands” guy and a “big play” guy. Baldwin’s catch rate since 2013 is 70.6%.
That’s on 514 total targets, which is a lot less than Jones (702) but way more than Stills (382) in virtually the same number of games. He somehow manages to play like a mixture of a number one receiver, a tight end, and a running back-as-a-receiver. He also scores touchdowns, as his 37 over the last five years ranks tied for ninth with new teammate Brandon Marshall. It’s only four fewer than Demaryius Thomas.
Comparing him to the best receiver in the NFL since 2013:
Antonio Brown has a catch rate of 67.8% and Y/T of 9.15
Baldwin has a catch rate of 70.6% and a Y/T of 9.32
Now I’ll repeat that Brown is the best receiver in the NFL and much better than Baldwin. He’s been targeted 858 times in that span for a reason. But they’re still close to the only two guys to put up efficiency stats like those ones. The others even near a high catch rate and Y/T are Golden Tate, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, and Julio. You’d have to look to tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce for that kind of efficiency. Baldwin is the 5’10 dude sliding his way in there, leading the NFL in touchdown catches in 2015.
Baldwin is 29 and to be considered for the Hall of Fame, likely would still need 5-6 more years like the last three. It’s a tall order but he’s proven capable and that as long as he’s working with Wilson, he’s going to be productive.
It’s just surprising given how the relationship began.