The Detroit Lions have had their fair share of draft busts at the side receiver position. Very few of them can claim to have failed as spectacularly as Jon Baldwin did with the Kansas City Chiefs. Drafted 26th overall in the 2011 draft out of Pittsburgh, the Chiefs thought they were getting a big bodied, Brandon Marshall type of receiver they could pair with starting receiver Dwayne Bowe. Somewhat ironically, this would have accomplished the same goal the Bears eventually got right with Marshall and Jeffery. It wasn’t to be, however, and Baldwin’s career went into tailspin.
After just 26 receptions and 2 TDs in two seasons for Kansas City, Baldwin was swapped for fellow 2011 draft bust AJ Jenkins of the 49ers. Though he went to a team desperate for help at the receiver position, Baldwin couldn’t break out there either and ended his time as a 49er with only 3 catches. He was ultimately waived, making the Chiefs the eventual ‘Winner‘ of the Baldwin/Jenkins trade (Hooray?).
The Lions put in a waiver claim, as some suspected they would, giving him a renewed chance in an ideal position. What receiver doesn’t want to play alongside Calvin Johnson? At 6’4 3/8″, 228 lbs., Baldwin has excellent size to pair with Johnson. His 4.49 speed actually drew Calvin Johnson comparisons, as did his 42″ vertical. His measurables are the biggest reason he was drafted, in fact, and are among the top combines for a WR in the past decade.
It takes more than just measurables to make a wide receiver, however, and Baldwin will face an uphill battle to make the Lions roster. He’ll be looking at a long list of receivers who have been performing well in camp in a fairly complicated offense while knowing very little with the ‘bust’ stigma clinging to him. Can he perform under that kind of pressure and earn a roster spot on a team known for its receiver issues the past few years? Time will tell, but I know which receiver I’ll be keeping a close eye on tomorrow in camp.