Rookie Watch: Jonathan Baldwin
Jonathan Baldwin may benefit from WR corps thin beyond Dwayen Bowe
Baldwin avaeraged 18.2 yards per catch in three seasons with Pittsburgh
Chiefs' conservative passing game may limit Baldwin's performance
Jonathan Baldwin has been labeled many things. The wide receiver was called a diva in the months leading up to the draft (University of Pittsburgh coaches have since defended Baldwin's attitude) and some scouts felt Kansas City's first round pick played "soft" for his 6-foot-4, 228-pound frame.
It's another label, however, that drew the attention of fantasy owners: big-play weapon. Said Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, "He'll add a dynamic to our team in the red zone." Certainly Baldwin can't hurt; only one Kansas City receiver was targeted more than 10 times in the red zone last year.
Knowing what coach Todd Haley has done for Dwayne Bowe, fantasy owners hope he can do the same for Baldwin.
Dissecting the depth chart: The reason fantasy owners are so excited by Baldwin is because, after Bowe, the Chiefs have very little talent at receiver. Last year's second-round pick, Dexter McCluster, is a situational player, and Chris Chambers' fat contract may buy him a ticket out of Kansas City. Terrance Copper saw plenty of time last year but caught more than two balls in just one game. In fact, after Bowe, no receiver caught more than 25 passes last season, and the team's second-leading receiver was rookie tight end Tony Moeaki. As soon as Baldwin landed at pick No. 26, people began to speculate that he was the favorite to win the team's No. 2 job, and Kansas City's front office and coaching staff did little to hush that talk.
Just the stats: Baldwin was a field stretcher for the Panthers, having averaged 18.2 yards per catch during his three years in the lineup. He caught 50 or more balls in his last two seasons, and recorded 1,111 yards as a sophomore in 2009. During one stretch, Baldwin gained 100 or more yards in 10 of 18 contests. But toward the end of his junior season he began to slide, with just one touchdown in his final six collegiate starts.
Projection for 2011: 35 receptions, 525 yards, 5 TDs.
2010 rookie comparison: David Gettis
Gettis posted the fourth-most receiving yards (508) among rookie wide receivers last year and led Carolina in touchdown catches. But if this comparison doesn't excite you, it's probably because he was lost on a team built around its running game. Baldwin's situation in Kansas City is not all that much different from what Gettis stepped into last fall.
Interesting fact that won't help you: Baldwin is the latest in a long line of former Aliquippa High School students to enter the NFL. Other alums include Mike Ditka, Ty Law and Derrelle Revis.
What he's worth: Baldwin is a case where the hype has inflated the real fantasy value. Sure, he's probably going to enter Week 1 as a starting wide receiver, and sure, he probably will be given opportunities in the red zone due to his size. But Kansas City is not a passing machine (fourth fewest attempts of any team in the NFL last year) and Baldwin will have just turned 22 when the season begins.
Baldwin is an attractive No. 5 receiver in most leagues -- the kind of player who offers good upside but requires only a modest investment and comes with low expectations.
Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for FootballDiehards.com.