When the San Francisco 49ers traded for WR Jon Baldwin, the former 2011 first-round pick (No. 26) instantly became the Niners biggest target at the wide receiver position. A team filled with lean receivers outside of WR Anquan Boldin, the 49ers desperately needed a big body to complement the other receivers already on the roster. At 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, Baldwin fits the bill perfectly. A physical freak, Baldwin has the frame to be a primary threat in red zone opportunities, while also possessing the potential to be a starting caliber receiver in the NFL. However, due to a slow start in Kansas City, in which he totaled 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns, Baldwin will now have the opportunity to resurrect his promising career in San Francisco.
So with a young talent on the verge of some much needed success, what does Baldwin bring to the table? A rare combination of athleticism, strength, and speed.
During the 2011 NFL combine, Baldwin registered the second highest vertical of any receiver (42-inches). In addition to showing his hops, Baldwin showed great hand-eye coordination in the gauntlet and position drills while rarely dropping a pass. Not to mention, knocking out an impressive 20 reps on the bench-press. In all, one can say that Baldwin was a workout warrior, and one that was made more impressive due to his size. However, the measurables weren’t the only thing working in Baldwin’s favor, as he had the game-film to match.
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A player known for his size, Baldwin used his body to his advantage, as he consistently leaped over defensive backs to haul in deep balls at it’s highest point. A rarity in the NFL, as defensive backs are usually bigger, stronger, and faster, Baldwin is still athletically gifted enough to come down with the pigskin more times than not if given the opportunity. A big red zone target, Baldwin could also be used on fade-routes when matched up one-on-one on the outside. And if he’s only used as a decoy, Baldwin has the fight as a run blocker to spring his teammates for extra yards on any given play.
Aside from Baldwin’s frame and athleticism, his best attribute may be his strength. A player that can separate from smaller cornerbacks, Baldwin can easily out-muscle and man handle his peers with little effort. And if cornerbacks decide to get physical and play bump-and-run, Baldwin has the build up speed (4.5 40-yard dash), to get behind them in a heartbeat with his long strides, while making the acrobatic catch down field. That’s right, Baldwin is a ESPN Top 10 play waiting to happen, reminiscent of former 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd, don’t believe me? Check out the video below.
Ryan is the Founder/Editor-in-chief of NinerFans.com and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, KNBR 680, National Football Post, mlive, FanSided Network, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (408) 622-0996.