With a swift back-hand like John McEnroe, The San Francisco 49ers whacked Jon Baldwin to the curb. According to Eric Branch of the Niner Insider Blog, Baldwin was “moving as if he was severely sleep deprived in practices.”
While this is bad news for the ex-Rotoviz darling, the move was seemingly motivated by both Baldwin’s self-induced demise and the cutting of Dallas Cowboy’s L’Damian Washington two days prior. The 49ers appear to be removing dead weight from their team and opting for a youthful upside option to methodically help bolster the wide receiver corps.
Washington is a longshot to have immediate fantasy impact, but it’s a shot that comes with enough circumstantial evidence to make it both warranted and deserving of additional investigation. At 6’4” 195 lbs, Washington can afford to eat a couple Bacon Clubhouse Burgers and work his way toward 210 lbs for starters. He isn’t lanky, however, and in fact his physical profile mirrors that of one A.J. Green. It sounds like Washington just wasn’t able to keep up with his counterparts in Dallas after sustaining an early injury, but the 49ers certainly saw the upside in bringing in a tall prospect that ran a 4.46 at the combine. 1
Washington doesn’t have a colored collegiate resume, but much like the fact that all DJ Khaled does is Win, all Washington does is score touchdowns. Jacob Myers looked into prospect touchdown performance and while Washington wasn’t a focal point of his article, his name appears in the table with a whopping 45 percent RZTDR and 38 percent msRZTDs. Additional analysis by RV staff was performed to predict NFL red zone success based on the physical attributes of receiving prospects, and once again our center-fold diamond in the rough made an appearance in the top five in terms of Predicted NFL RZTDs.
Now what in the world would the San Francisco 49ers need with a 6’4” receiver that runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and scores TDs like Tom chases Jerry? I’m glad you asked.
The 49ers were very efficient last year while moving the chains down the field and getting to red zone with a ninth-ranked .35 MTRZ in 2013. While they were able to get to the red zone with ease, they were only able to convert TDs in the red zone at a 23rd ranked .60 RZTD. Granted they did gain Michael Crabtree back this year, Washington could come in and fulfill a situational role in the red zone to help close the gap between their MTRZ and RZTD rates. Because, you know, all Washington does is score TDs with his towering size and long arms.2
We saw Marlon Brown come in and fulfill this type of role in Baltimore last year with much success. Brown had so much success in this limited role that his accomplishment put him in a comparison chart to one Randy Moss. When you put Brown’s collegiate heat map side-to-side to Washington, you’ll see some striking similarities.
Both receivers were apparently raw as a freshman and then earned limited opportunities in their sophomore seasons. Then in year 3 Washington actually saw more action than Brown, and in year 4 Washington outperformed Brown in every category outside of YPT. They both flashed just enough their senior seasons to earn roster spots at the next level due to both respectable RZTD and msTD rates as well as towering end zone presence.
Now, obviously Brown was a darkhorse sleeper in his own regard and can be had with third and fourth round values or draft picks right now. So it’s not like I’m saying Washington is going to light it up and lead your redraft teams to the Shiva.3 For what it’s worth Brown also had a much clearer path to a starting gig than Washinton. Washington needs to start by making the 53 before he earns a shot at playing time in the near term.
If Crabtree and the team are unable to work out a long term deal, Washington could be the next in line to man an outside position. Another outcome could be that Crabtree does stay in town, and potentially one either Boldin or Johnson is let go. At first glance, you’d think that Boldin’s time is limited based on age alone. If this were to be the case, the 49ers would save $3.2 million against the cap, but they’d eat $3.6 million in dead money according to overthecap.com. Surprisingly, Stevie Johnson could very well end up being a one-year rental player if his injury woes continue and the team needs the money to secure Crabtree. Johnson still has another three years on his contract, but his contract is structured in a way that he’s really on a “show-me” deal with the 49ers. If the team were to cut ties with him, they would save just over $6 million against the cap without any dead money.
If the cards play out the right way, Washington could find himself in a Marlon Brown type role as early as next year. Put Washington in your deep dynasty stash cross-hairs as his collegiate and athletic profiles put him in the conversation of guys that can have large touchdown impact as early as next year.
All Washington does is score TDs, and that just might be the reason why the 49ers were quick to bring him in.