BY SPNW Staff 03:55PM 10/10/2011

Doug Baldwin: A shockingly nice surprise

On July 26, shortly after the NFL lockout ended, the Seahawks made their 33rd roster transaction of 2011 and the 317th of the John Schneider-Pete Carroll era. At the time, the move seemed to amount to little more than another snowflake in an intense blizzard of player roulette. Naturally, it didn’t even rate a headline.

Today, deal No. 33 either constitutes a stroke of utter genius, or a prime example of absurdly good luck, and maybe both. It also calls into question the reliability of all who purport to have expertise about the NFL draft.

Fact is, 32 franchises, including the Seahawks, whiffed on 5-10, 189-pound Stanford wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Two hundred and fifty-four picks came and went without a club making a claim. And get this: Baldwin didn’t even make Gil Brandt’s (the ultimate draft guru) post-draft list of the “Top 20 Undrafted Free Agents,” which included two wide receivers, Dane Sanzenbacher of Ohio State and Ricardo Lockette of Fort Valley State.

At least the Seahawks finally rectified the oversight by signing Baldwin as an undrafted free agent and issuing him uniform No. 15.

Baldwin is five games into his NFL career and has already admonished — and astonished — all of the draftniks who snubbed him. He leads the Seahawks in receptions (20), yards (330) and touchdown catches (2).

Sunday in New York, Baldwin made eight of those 20 snags, produced his first 100-yard receiving game (136) and tallied his second NFL touchdown (27 yards from Charlie Whitehurst) in the Seahawks’ improbable 36-25 win over the Giants. In reflecting on Baldwin’s performance, Sportspress Northwest columnist Art Thiel’s first reference to the rookie was: “I mean, Doug Baldwin?!”

You’re hip to the “!” part. Now for the “?”

Baldwin might have been overlooked in the draft because of his size, or relative lack of it. Or, he might have been dismissed because the numbers he put up in 2010 at Stanford failed to adequately dazzle. Although Baldwin served as current Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck’s favorite target, Baldwin made just 58 catches for 857 yards and 9 touchdowns, including 5 for 56 yards and no TDs in a 41-0 Cardinal romp over Washington (UW’s Jermaine Kearse had a better statistical year than Baldwin: 63 receptions, 1,005 yards, 12 TDs).

NFL draft history is also littered with whiffs: Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, Priest Holmes, John Randle and Nate Newton, to cite five recent examples. A dozen Pro Football Hall of Famers, including former Husky/Seahawk Warren Moon, entered the league undrafted. Two of the three most productive quarterbacks in Seahawks history, Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg, flunked the NFL draft test.

But rarely does a quality receiver slip through the cracks. Of the few that did, including Drew Pearson, Wes Welker and Reggie Rucker, former Denver wideout Rod Smith had the most productive career. Signed as a free agent out of Missouri Southern, Smith played 183 games for the Broncos between 1995-06. In addition to making 68 touchdowns receptions, Smith is the only undrafted wide receiver to exceed 10,000 career yards (11,389).

Since the Seahawks opened shop in 1976, they have employed fewer than a handful of receivers who amounted to much after they were acquired as undrafted free agents. The best was, or could have been, former Tulsa standout Paul Johns (1981-84), whose career, which included 1,058 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, ended prematurely due to a neck injury. The chart shows that Baldwin, in just his fifth game, already holds the unofficial team record for most yards in a game by an undrafted wide receiver.

Year Date Receiver Opponent No. Yards Avg. Lng. TD
2011 Oct. 9 Doug Baldwin at NYG 8 136 17.0 27 1
1983 Nov. 20 Paul Johns at Den 7 133 19.0 46 1
1983 Oct. 23 Paul Johns vs. Pitt 6 118 19.7 28 1
1998 Nov. 29 James McKnight vs. Tenn 5 113 22.6 59 1
1984 Set. 16 Paul Johns at NE 8 105 13.1 25 0
1982 Nov. 21 Paul Johns vs. Den 5 103 20.6 35 0
1997 Oct. 26 James McKnight vs. Oak 4 100 25.0 42 1
2011 Oct. 2 Doug Baldwin vs. Atl 5 84 16.8 30 0
1982 Sept. 19 Byron Walker at Hou 4 81 20.2 40 1

More impressive is that Baldwin has already jumped to No. 2 on this list: Most yards in a game by a rookie Seahawks receiver. Joey Galloway in 1995 and Koren Robinson in 2001 were first-round draft picks. As for the others, only Baldwin went unclaimed in the NFL’s annual body snatch.

Year Date Receiver Opponent No. Yards Avg. Lng. TD
1988 Oct. 16 Brian Blades vs. NO 8 145 18.1 52 1
2011 Oct. 9 Doug Baldwin at NYG 8 136 17.0 27 1
1976 Sept. 26 Steve Largent vs. SF 7 128 18.3 41 1
1988 Dec. 11 Brian Blades at LA Raid 4 123 30.8 55 2
1995 Nov. 12 Joey Galloway at Jax 5 114 22.8 38 2
1995 Dec. 17 Joey Galloway vs. Oak 5 108 21.6 43 1
2008 Nov. 27 John Carlson at Dal 6 105 17.5 33 0
1995 Oct. 15 Joey Galloway at Buff 5 102 20.4 54 1
1984 Sept. 9 Darryl Turner vs. SDG 3 97 32.3 51 1
1982 Sept. 19 Byron Walker at Hou 4 81 20.2 40 1
2001 Sept. 30 Koren Robinson at Oak 5 78 15.6 21 0
2005 Nov. 13 D.J. Hackett vs. StL 2 78 39.0 47 1

In addition to a relative lack of size and a less-than-glittering statistical resume at
Stanford, Baldwin may also have been viewed by NFL scouts as a player who would not be able to recognize the multitude of coverages pro receivers routinely see, or was ill-equipped to make the split-second decisions pro receivers have to make each down.

If that factored into Baldwin going undrafted, well, NFL scouts whiffed there as well.

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YourThoughts

  • SeaChicken

    Someone should go back 10 years and review all of Mel Kiper’s picks in the NFL drafts to see what kind of winning percentage he has. I read once that to be considered a legitimate clairvoyant, someone must have a proven accuracy rate of at least 75%.  The problem is that these phony baloneys never reveal all the predictions they make, so there is never enough credible data to accurately gauge their success  or failure rate.  Yet people buy their books, buy tickets to their shows and follow their loony advice.
    I am not saying that “draft gurus” are like these charlatans, but it would be cool if there was a similar success percentage established so we could measure their accuracy over the years.  Right now all we got is that they are on TV, or they have magazines and websites named after them, so they must be darn good.  But are they really?  Who knows.

    • Carkeek

      Mel Kiper predicts draft picks, he doesn’t predict NFL success, so what happens 10 years down the road has nothing to do with what he does.
      Also, NFL teams make draft picks independent of what Mel Kiper thinks.  Whether he is good or not is not relevant to real life.

      • Herb Huseland

        Good Point.

  • SeaChicken

    Someone should go back 10 years and review all of Mel Kiper’s picks in the NFL drafts to see what kind of winning percentage he has. I read once that to be considered a legitimate clairvoyant, someone must have a proven accuracy rate of at least 75%.  The problem is that these phony baloneys never reveal all the predictions they make, so there is never enough credible data to accurately gauge their success  or failure rate.  Yet people buy their books, buy tickets to their shows and follow their loony advice.
    I am not saying that “draft gurus” are like these charlatans, but it would be cool if there was a similar success percentage established so we could measure their accuracy over the years.  Right now all we got is that they are on TV, or they have magazines and websites named after them, so they must be darn good.  But are they really?  Who knows.

    • Carkeek

      Mel Kiper predicts draft picks, he doesn’t predict NFL success, so what happens 10 years down the road has nothing to do with what he does.
      Also, NFL teams make draft picks independent of what Mel Kiper thinks.  Whether he is good or not is not relevant to real life.

      • Herb Huseland

        Good Point.