Doug Baldwin, Wes Welker and Wide Receiver Agility Scores

by Ray Marzarella ·

Doug Baldwin is not a top-10 fantasy wide receiver.  Just don’t tell Doug Baldwin.

Doug Baldwin entered the NFL in 2011 as an undrafted free agent from Stanford with a decidedly average-at-best prospect profile.  He entered 2015 with 15 career touchdowns to his name.  He spent his first four years in the league averaging fewer than 50 catches and fewer than 700 receiving yards per season.  He had never even come close to achieving Top 10 fantasy wide receiver status before last year.  Add in the fact that Seattle has primarily been a running team throughout his career and you can be forgiven for being unable to see his breakout coming before the season began.

So then how did Doug Baldwin manage a 78-catch, 1,069-yard, 14-touchdown season in 2015?  When mid-season injuries to Seattle’s running back stable brought about a philosophical change in the way the team ran their offense, Baldwin was made the focal point.  And with a player the caliber of Russell Wilson throwing him the ball, he was able to become the most efficient receiver in the league in 2015.  When looking at Baldwin’s physical profile, it may surprise you to see that a player who looks like he does was able to lead all receivers in Production Premium (+55.8-percent), Catch Rate (75.7-percent) and Fantasy Points per Target (2.61) in 2015.


Doug Baldwin Advanced Metrics Profile

WR Agility Scores Matter

The most positive attribute on the Doug Baldwin profile, the one that had the most to do with why he was able to break out to the extent that he did, is his 88th-percentile Agility Score.  A player’s Agility Score, the sum of his 20-Yard Short Shuttle and 3-Cone Drill times, measures his short area quickness and balance and correlates with an ability to avoid tackles and compile yards before contact.  Baldwin’s borderline elite agility is the reason he was able to score seven of his 14 touchdowns in 2015 from inside the red zone despite standing 5-10, weighing 189 pounds and having a Catch Radius in the 21st percentile.

When a wide receiver with Doug Baldwin’s level of agility receives a chance to be the focal point of a high-volume NFL passing offense led by a good-to-great quarterback, fantasy owners of those receivers can expect good results.  The poster child for this dynamic is Wes Welker.


Wes Welker Advanced Metrics Profile

Wes Welker had six productive fantasy seasons as a New England Patriot and one as a Denver Bronco.  All he had going for him during that time was his above average agility, his target hog status in high volume passing offenses and quarterbacks named Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  Welker’s agility, more than any other attribute, allowed him to record 42 of his 50 career receiving touchdowns from inside the red zone, with 29 of them coming from within the 10-yard line.  All this despite standing 5-9, weighing 185 pounds and having a Catch Radius in the 2nd percentile.

A bad Agility Score does not doom a wide receiver.  Players with subpar agility and/or subpar quarterback play delivered league-winning fantasy seasons as recently as 2015 (DeAndre Hopkins comes to mind).  But strong Agility Scores are a glaring commonality shared by three of the five men who led all wide receivers in touchdowns scored in 2015.

Doug Baldwin (14 TDs), Allen Robinson (14) and Odell Beckham (13) each fall into completely different player archetypes, but all thrived when made the focal point of a high-volume passing offense.  While Brandon Marshall (14) and Eric Decker (12) are full-fledged members of #TeamBigWR, and played with one of the league’s more efficient quarterbacks in Ryan Fitzpatrick.  And although Beckham, Robinson and Marshall all have Catch Radii at or exceeding the 80th percentile (Decker has none listed), Doug Baldwin scored 14 touchdowns despite having a 9.86, 21st-percentile Catch Radius.  This shows that a player doesn’t need to have a great Catch Radius to record a top notch fantasy season, provided they both receive sufficient opportunity and have the agility to be able to elude defensive backs in tighter quarters.

Using PlayerProfiler’s new Data Analysis tool, we can see that the NFL sports a number of wide receivers with above-average Agility Scores and below-average Catch Radii.  While most who fit this description are no-name players that have never made an NFL impact, this cohort does feature players who have either already recorded big-time fantasy campaigns or have shown enough to inspire confidence that they could do so given the right circumstances in the future.  Among the names are 2015’s top scoring receiver in Antonio Brown and Doug Baldwin‘s tag team partner in Tyler Lockett.

Screenshot (27)

WRs w/ Above-Average Agility & Below-Average Catch Radii

If plus-agility is all that a particular player has going for him, as was the case with Wes Welker in his prime fantasy point scoring years, it stands to reason that he has better odds of having a memorable fantasy season in the right circumstance than a player with subpar agility.  Unless the player with subpar agility falls into the Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson archetypes.


There’s no way we would’ve been able to see the Doug Baldwin breakout coming before the 2015 NFL season started.  It took a perfect storm of events for Baldwin to go on the tear that he did, much like it took a perfect storm for Odell Beckham to go on his epic run in 2014.  But once it happened, Baldwin was able to use his elite agility to score touchdowns from all areas of the field en route to his first Top 10 fantasy wide receiver campaign.

When a wide receiver with great-to-elite agility becomes the focal point of a high-volume NFL passing offense led by a good-to-great quarterback, no matter the receiver’s size, fantasy owners should do everything in their power to acquire that player in all formats.  Because as players like Doug Baldwin and Wes Welker have shown us, sometimes all you need to be a fantasy football difference-maker is plus agility, a pass-happy offense, an above-average quarterback and a chance.