With Doug Baldwin‘s future in Seattle in question, the Seahawks could turn to the draft to find a new star. What rookies could replicate Baldwin’s success?
Doug Baldwin has been the very model of consistent playmaking for the Seattle Seahawks for the last several seasons. He has been Russell Wilson‘s “Mr. Reliable” and a leader for this Seattle team. However, the seasons have started to take their toll on Doug Baldwin’s body. Baldwin has undergone three surgeries this offseason, knee, shoulder, and a sports hernia, and Pete Carroll has confirmed he will miss 6-8 weeks. That timetable almost guarantees Baldwin misses most of OTAs. Baldwin’s production tanked last season while playing through multiple injuries, and Seattle’s passing game suffered as a result. Seattle recognized this, as they have started to do work on wide receivers in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. The Seahawks brought in WR N’Keal Harry in for a workout a few days ago, per NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo.
Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry will make a pre-draft visit to the #Seahawks, source says. Seattle, which is waiting to see what Doug Baldwin decides on his future, picks 21st.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 4, 2019
If Seattle does indeed wish to spend a draft selection on a wide receiver, they will have to do so carefully. Seattle enters the draft with only four draft selections in total: 21 (1st round), 85 (3rd round), 125 (4th round), and 160 (5th round). Here are some names for Seattle fans to keep an eye on as a potential Baldwin substitute. Note that all stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Go big or go home right? Harry is presumed to be a first-round selection, Seattle is in the perfect draft range for him, and they have already brought him in for a visit. Pick 21 is right ahead of teams like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis who are all rumored to be in the market for a wide receiver. Harry projects best as a big slot weapon early on and fits right in with Seattle. Baldwin reached yards per target of 8.46 last season playing in the slot, while Harry posted 9.6 yards per target. This underneath slot role fits Harry well, and it would put him in the best place to succeed early.
Baldwin thrived as an underneath receiver who created tons of Yards After Catch (YAC). Harry can be that same type of YAC monster at the next level, especially as a rookie. Last season, 515 of Harry’s 1,088 receiving yards came after the catch. He averaged 7.1 YAC per completion as well. This marriage of player and team needs fits perfectly but is made sweeter by Harry’s plus ability in run blocking. If this wide receiver is the way Seattle decides to go, Harry would be a great fit.
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Brown is another target the Seahawks would likely have to draft at 21. Brown is closer to what Seahawks fans are used to with Doug Baldwin. Between Brown and Harry, Brown is the safer selection and is more refined as a receiver than Harry. He separated better and operated more in the slot than Harry in college, which makes him more comfortable in that role right away. Brown even averaged the same YAC per completion as Harry at 7.1 and generated more YAC at 600 in total last season, while posting higher yards per target at 11.4. Seattle likes high-IQ players, and Brown fits that mold perfectly.
The sacrifice being made with Brown over Harry is in size, athletic ability, and run blocking. Brown is two inches shorter than Harry, and it shows in contested situations. While Brown tested well at the Combine, Harry on film looked more dynamic, albeit less refined. The most significant contrast is in run blocking. Harry has no problem blowing up the defender opposite him in the run game. Brown has less play strength and his effort there is inconsistent. Seattle will have to decide between Brown and Harry at 21. Do they wish for a refined prospect to take over that role or is the athletic sacrifice too much? Both can play in the slot and outside for a little versatility, but the differences between the two make for a tough call.
Jakobi Meyers, NC State
Meyers is a prospect that Seattle could poach in the later rounds to fill this role at either pick 125 or after a trade down. I have a 4th round grade on him, and he narrowly missed my top-100 prospects list. Baldwin is Wilson’s “Mr. Reliable”, and Meyers can be that player as well. While not as athletic as the two previous players on this list, Meyers gets it done and catches pretty much every pass thrown his way (only three drops in 2018). He is the same height as N’Keal Harry as well at 6’2, and his routes are among the cleanest and most diverse in this draft.
Baldwin had no issues operating in traffic over the middle, and neither does Meyers. He has no problems using his size and length to pluck the ball out of the air. Meyers goes up and consistently makes the tough catches to keep the chains moving. He does come with a cost, however. The sacrifice with Meyers is you lose the athleticism of Harry and the shiftiness of Brown. Meyers only posted a 3.7 YAC per target and did not force many missed tackles. While Meyers is an excellent prospect in his own right, he does come at a discount for a reason. While he would fill the slot role admirably, Meyers likely will not create most of his yards in the same way as Baldwin. Is he worth the price?
Jalen Hurd, Baylor
Hurd is a compelling case in terms of fit in Seattle. In his first year at WR, Hurd played over 400 snaps in the slot at Baylor. Despite making the transition from RB to WR, Hurd was surprisingly polished as a route-runner in his first year at the position. His routes were cleaner than some other receivers in this class, and they played the position for 3+ years in college. Averaging 13.7 yards per completion, Hurd offers the athleticism and ability after the catch that Baldwin has brought to Seattle. He also brings the toughness over the middle and in contested situations much like the aforementioned Meyers. He’s not afraid to fight for extra yards either and took snaps at RB as well at Baylor. Brian Schottenheimer will love that.
Hurd is a dangerous target, however. While he offers an intriguing skill set, there are red flags. Hurd had an arrest while at Tennessee and then transferred after having issues with the former coaching staff. Also, injuries have sidelined him for most of the offseason. Hurd also has the risk that comes with playing wide receiver for only one season. While he was great in his first year, there still is a risk there. It sounds like Hurd’s stock is all over the place with NFL teams, but I am high on Hurd. I would estimate his draft range to be from picks 125 to 160.
I listed just four names in a very deep and talented wide receiver class. These players are the ones I believe could adequately fill Baldwin’s shoes or even replace him if Seattle does move on. Seattle has to be careful in the draft, but these four players could pay dividends for years to come.