Not all receiver positions are created equal. Flanker, Split End, and Slot all have very different job qualifications. For instance, speed is helpful for all 3, but it is an absolute must for the flanker.
The slot receiver doesn’t have to be fast. What they do have to be is quick, especially in and out of their breaks. They must be able to get open in a small space, have a knack for finding holes in zone coverage, and great instincts for knowing exactly where the first down marker is. They must also be tough, since they tend to catch passes when they are in close proximity to hard hitting linebackers.
That description of the ideal slot receiver is also the description of Doug Baldwin. He’s ideal for the job, which is part of the reason why he had such a great year in 2011, despite being an undrafted rookie. Baldwin finished the year with 51 receptions for 788 yards and 4 touchdowns. Most importantly, Baldwin had 23 catches that moved the chains on third downs, that’s 4th best in the league.
The problem is that Baldwin doesn’t want to play in the slot. He wants to move outside on the perimeter and play one of the other receiver spots that get to be on the field more often. Unfortunately, that’s not a recipe for good things for the Seahawks. On the outside, Baldwin’s lack of speed becomes a liability. His ability to get open in small spaces in the center of the field, doesn’t help as much when he’s further from the QB and the ball takes longer to get to him.
Currently the best slot receiver in the NFL is Wes Welker of the New England Patriots (though Baldwin has the talent to challenge for the top spot if he keeps improving). We hear this same things from Welker each year about wanting to move outside. yet even with Tom Brady as his QB, Welker only seems to be able to make an impact on plays where’s he’s in the slot.
I’m a huge fan of Baldwin. I think he’s an amazing player. I just don’t want to see him fall into the trap of thinking that he’d be worth more to the team if he was allowed to play on the outside. He’s incredibly valuable to the Seahawks, and I don’t want to see him leave because some other team promises him that he wont have to be in the slot. There is nothing wrong with being the team’s slot receiver.
Someone should get Bobby Engram and Paul Skanzi to talk some sense him.