Is Doug Baldwin an elite talent? Maybe, maybe not (OK, probably not). But is Doug Baldwin an elite fantasy asset? Absolutely. He is one of four wide receivers to finish as a top 10 WR in both standard and PPR scoring – total points, and points per game – in each of the last two seasons. He shares that honor with Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones. And all the conditions are right for Baldwin to keep that trend alive in 2017. In fact, he’s due to improve upon his production again as the situation around him becomes more favorable.
Consider his situation
– Seattle is morphing into a pass-first offense. Russell Wilson’s attempts have increased year over year: 393, 407, 452, 483, 546. I’m not expecting 600 attempts, but 550-575 is a safe assumption.
– Wilson incurred knee, ankle, and pectoral injuries in 2016. He did play all 16 games, just not at 100%. Expect positive regression to the mean for Wilson’s health in 2017.
– Seattle’s poor offensive line and RB depth chart will prevent them from scoring effectively on the ground. Wilson is going to have to throw to score if Seattle is to win games.
– Jimmy Graham, who competes with Baldwin in the middle of the field and in the red zone, has never played 16 games in consecutive seasons in his career. He played 16 games in 2016. The aging, fragile TE is the greatest scoring threat on the roster, and perhaps the only player preventing Baldwin from eclipsing 12 TDs.
– Tyler Lockett – Baldwin’s primary competition for WR targets – suffered a gruesome leg injury in Week 16 of the 2016 campaign. The Seahawks have provided minimal details as to when he’ll be back, and in what capacity.
All of these factors, to one degree or another, signal one thing. Doug Baldwin is going to be the most important part of the Seattle Seahawks offense, even more so than in his last two prolific years. Expect a bump both in volume and in scoring for this consistent, reliable performer in 2017.
Next, consider his talent
In neither 2015 nor 2016 did Doug Baldwin fail to eclipse a 75% catch rate. He has that Steve Smith Sr. competitiveness factor. He’s clearly the most talented WR on the team, unless perhaps Lockett comes back in full health, not having missed a stride.
Put it together
– 2015: 103 targets, 78 receptions, 1,069 yards, 14 TDs, 11.9 standard points per game.
– 2016: 125 targets, 94 receptions, 1,128 yards, 7 TDs, 9.7 standard points per game.
– In 2017, expect to see 135 targets, 100 receptions, 1,200 yards, 9 TDs (with upside for 12+), 10.9 points per game in standard scoring settings. Don’t hesitate for a moment to draft this proven commodity as a third-round WR1. Even a mid-to-late second-round pick would be warranted for more conservative drafters.
Nick Zychowicz is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Nick, follow him @NJZychowicz.