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If Doug Baldwin is done, which receiver will fill his shoes?

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In the 2019 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks drafted three wide receivers, and then continued pursuing potential targets for quarterback Russell Wilson after the draft in reportedly signing at least a couple more undrafted free agents. The biggest question mark for the receiving corps, however, remains whether Doug Baldwin will be with the team in 2019, but based on reports during the draft, it appears he will not.

If Baldwin has indeed played his final game in the NFL, or at least for the Seahawks, then it is understandable why the team reportedly added five receivers over the weekend in D.K. Metcalf, Gary Jennings, John Ursua, Jazz Ferguson and Delane Hart-Johnson. Obviously, a couple of these new additions, like D.K. Metcalf and Jazz Ferguson, are big-bodied receivers who seem much more likely to be utilized on deep targets and in the red zone, so today I’m focusing on the receivers who are more like Baldwin in terms of their physical traits.

That obviously brings seventh round selection John Ursua to the front of the discussion, and there are those who believe Ursua has the potential to be very good in the NFL.

Now, Mr. Solak may be overestimating Ursua’s ability to be a long term contributor, as he is already 24 years of age, but I’ll ignore that part of it and focus on the fact that he anticipates Ursua can contribute in the slot in the coming years.

But it’s important to avoid tunnel vision and focusing only on the shiny new toys that were delivered over the weekend. The Hawks have other names on the roster that will certainly be vying to step in and replace Doug’s production this season, so let’s compare those names to Baldwin in terms of physical attributes.

Athletic profiles of receivers compared to Doug Baldwin

Player Doug Baldwin Tyler Lockett John Ursua Keenan Reynolds J.D. McKissic
Player Doug Baldwin Tyler Lockett John Ursua Keenan Reynolds J.D. McKissic
Height 5096 5097 5091 5094 5101
Weight 189 182 178 190 187
40 4.48 4.4 4.56 4.57 4.57
Bench 6 N/A 17 15 17
Vertical 37 35.5 37 37 37
Broad 123 121 120 120 122
Shuttle 4.26 4.07 4.16 N/A 4.44
3-cone 6.56 6.89 6.77 N/A 7

There is no question that it takes more than just certain physical traits to become a successful receiver in the NFL. That said, we know that Tyler Lockett can get open against defenders in the NFL.

Moving Lockett inside would allow Metcalf, Ferguson, Jennings, Hart-Johnson and David Moore to duke it out for playing time as deep threats on the outside while Lockett continues his progression into one of the most dominant receivers in the NFL. However, we also know that Ursua has a fantastic highlight reel from a 2018 campaign that led the NCAA in receiving touchdowns.

Before handing the slot job to either of those two, however, let’s not also forget that J.D. McKissic had more receiving yards in college than any of the three receivers the Seahawks drafted this weekend. On top of that, he has shown the ability to catch the ball in the NFL.

And he has shown a repeated ability to catch the ball even when well covered.

Adding to the intrigue of this is a little change in roster designation the team made recently.

As I looked at back in early March, the team has consistently listed McKissic as a running back on the team roster, but as a wide receiver in the snap count reports for each game. The change in designation from running back to return specialist is intriguing because it allows the Hawks to continue to utilize him as they have in the past while also letting him continue to wear number 21. This may or may not be anything of note, but just as the Patriots do with James White, this may simply be a move to keep defenses off balance.

Media pundits and analysts have widely reported that the Patriots bucked the trend and went against the grain in 2018 by using 21 personnel (two running backs and one tight end) far more than the league wide averages. However, this is entirely misleading because of how the team used White over the course of the season. While White often lines up in the backfield and wears number 28, a running back number, make no mistake about it - he is a wide receiver. In fact, White led all Patriots in targets (123) and receptions (87) and receiving touchdowns (7), while running a route on almost 70% of the snaps he played.

In short, by making a small change to McKissic’s positional designation the Seahawks may have set things up for McKissic to play a lot of receiver in 2019, while maintaining his running back number. We’ll have to wait until August and September to see what the team’s true intentions are regarding Baldwin, if his playing days are in fact finished, but even if they are, the possibilities going forward are certainly intriguing.