Close your eyes. You’re laying on a cabana chair; the sun is pleasantly warm on your face. The mojito in your hand is ice cold and just beginning to sweat droplets that disappear instantly on the impossibly white sand. A sultry voice beside you says, “I know this is a little forward, but can I ask you a question?”
You nod, intrigued.
“I need to fill my flex-spot.”
Ok, so maybe you don’t fantasize about fantasy football, but I do. And my day-dream lineups aren’t populated by Victoria’s Secret runway models. I love the flaws. I love the plain-Jane players that a lot of dynasty owners overlook because they aren’t sexy and young and brimming with perceived “upside.” Most of all, I love winning. A beautiful facade is nice, but I love my players for what they do.
Keenan Allen is sexy. He’s going off the board in the late 2nd (20 overall,) and there’s not a week that goes by without someone gushing about him on a podcast. Allen is in a high volume passing offense (15th most attempts in 2016 and 3rd most in 2015,) he should be Philip Rivers’s primary target this season, and the kicker: he’s only 25! Aside from a few unlucky injuries, what’s not to love, right?
Well, sort of. Allen has never been a prolific touchdown producer, and it doesn’t seem like Allen’s path to the endzone has gotten any easier. With the emergence of Hunter Henry and Tyrell Williams and the addition of 6’4” rookie redzone threat Mike Williams, the Chargers seemed poised to move Allen back to his role as a possession receiver. (With the construct of the receiving corps, the narrative of Allen returning to the 14.7 ypc of his rookie campaign is far fetched.) The volume should be there, but even on 120 targets, at 10.5 yards per reception it’s hard to picture Allen turning that into more that 85/900/4.
Here’s where I hard pivot up the west coast, north to Seattle; there’s a hidden gem in the Emerald City: Doug Baldwin. Coming off the board at 27, (7 spots later than Allen,) Baldwin is a legit WR1 masquerading as a third round startup pick. Two years ago, he finished as the #9 receiver in ppr formats amid cries of “unsustainable” and “prime regression candidate.” Baldwin responded in 2016 by averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game, finishing as the WR6. While he is 28, three years older than Allen, I don’t see his production slowing before 2020.
Volume shouldn’t be an issue for Baldwin; he’s averaged 99 targets over the last four seasons with an increase in looks every year. Baldwin is tied to Russell Wilson, who even in an injury plagued year, managed to get his main target the ball 94 times for 1,100 yards on 121 throws. Although Baldwin is not a prototypical redzone threat at just 5’10”, he has a knack for finding the paint (36 times in his six year career.)
Even if you believe a regression is coming for Baldwin, (in spite of his quarterback’s return to health, the continued ineptitude of the offensive line to run-block, and the fact that the only move the Seahawks made in the draft to bolster the receiving corps was a 3rd round selection of the uninspiring Amara Darboh,) it’s difficult to see Baldwin being less productive than 85/1,050/5. (For what it’s worth, I see him closer to 92/1,150/6.)
Either way, I’m taking Baldwin over Allen. Every. Single. Time.