The news is sort of a surprise, but also not really a shock. There were multiple reports in late April that Baldwin was considering retirement since his body was in bad shape. He had three surgeries this offseason on his knee, shoulder and groin, and he struggled through the 2018 season because of a knee injury.
It’s a disappointing end to Baldwin’s career. He was a good slot receiver almost immediately when he entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent from Stanford in 2011, and he eventually became a standout Fantasy option starting in 2015.
From 2015-17, Baldwin averaged 82 catches for 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns over that three-year span, and he was an important part of Russell Wilson’s success. He will be missed by Seattle fans, as well as Fantasy players.
But with Baldwin gone, there is a big opportunity in front of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf this season, as well as plenty of potential for guys like David Moore and Gary Jennings. Lockett’s star is definitely on the rise.
In 2018, with Baldwin playing at less than 100 percent, along with missing three games, Lockett was Seattle’s most productive receiver. He set career highs in targets (71), receptions (57), receiving yards (965) and touchdowns (10), and he scored at least 10 PPR points in 14 games. Lockett was the No. 16 receiver in PPR leagues.
We hope that Lockett sees an increase in targets now that he’s clearly the No. 1 receiver for Wilson, and Lockett had the fewest targets of the top 31 PPR receivers last year. In fact, he was No. 55 in targets among receivers in 2018.
But don’t expect a huge leap in that category for Lockett. While Baldwin had 73 targets last year, which should be spread around to the other receivers, as well as Lockett, the Seahawks aren’t a high-volume passing attack. They ranked last in pass attempts in 2018 with 427, and this offense isn’t expected to change much.
It caps the ceiling for Lockett, who should be considered a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all formats. He’s worth drafting as early as Round 4, and hopefully he will remain just as efficient as he was last season. Lockett caught more than 80 percent of his targets and scored once every seven targets, so he’s reliable when the ball is put in his direction. We just wish Wilson did more of that to help Lockett’s production rise.
The lack of pass attempts in Seattle’s offense also limits the upside for Metcalf, who was selected in Round 2 of the NFL Draft from Ole Miss. A physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds with 4.33 speed, Metcalf profiles as a down-field threat, who still needs to improve his route running.
He also struggled with injuries in college and was limited to seven games in 2018, and he finished with 26 catches for 529 yards and five touchdowns. Metcalf should be a starter for Seattle in Week 1, and his path to targets is clear with Baldwin gone. But don’t overvalue Metcalf in his rookie campaign in seasonal Fantasy leagues.
He should only be drafted with a mid-round pick, but there’s certainly a chance for him to out-perform his draft status given his role in this offense. And in rookie-only drafts, Metcalf is a first-round pick worth taking as high as a top-five selection. He’s in the discussion for the top rookie receiver along with N’Keal Harry (Patriots) and Parris Campbell (Colts).
The other receivers in this offense worth drafting with late-round picks are Moore and Jennings, but both are only worth taking in deeper leagues. Moore will likely be the No. 3 receiver for the Seahawks, and he was third in targets last season with 53, finishing with 26 catches for 445 yards and five touchdowns. Moore had seven games last season with at least four targets, and he scored at least 18 PPR points in three of them.
Jennings was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft from West Virginia, and he could eventually be the slot receiver as Baldwin’s replacement. He played in the slot for the Mountaineers, and we’ll see if he can earn the trust from Wilson in his rookie campaign. In rookie-only drafts, Jennings is worth selecting in Round 3.
We could see the tight ends improve as well with Baldwin gone, and the best of the trio of Will Dissly, Nick Vannett and Ed Dickson should be Dissly. He was playing well last season through four games before suffering a knee injury, and he scored at least 13 PPR points in two of those outings.
Dissly is still not 100 percent with his knee, but he could be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues by training camp. He’s a potential sleeper at a thin position.
Wilson loses as a Fantasy quarterback without Baldwin, but not much since we saw what he could do last season with Baldwin banged up. The combination of Metcalf and Jennings, as well as the potential of increased production from Lockett, Moore and hopefully Dissly, should keep Wilson playing at a high level.
The concern for Wilson is more about his lack of pass attempts, and he was only 18th in passing yards last season with 3,448. What saved him was passing for 35 touchdowns, which was tied for third in the NFL, and only seven interceptions.
If his touchdowns decrease — maybe by five, 10 or even more — then he could be a bust as a Fantasy quarterback considering how this offense is expected to operate. Seattle is a run-first team despite giving Wilson a four-year, $140 million contract extension in April, including a league-record $65 million signing bonus.
Wilson is a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback worth drafting with a mid-round pick.
Baldwin’s departure shouldn’t impact the running backs in any way. Given how much the Seahawks lean on their ground game — they were No. 1 in rushing yards in 2018 and No. 2 in rushing attempts — Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny should be just fine.
Carson is a No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 4 or 5. And Penny is a mid-round pick in all formats.
We’ll miss Baldwin running routes out of the slot for Seattle, but his departure could be great for guys like Lockett and Metcalf in 2019.