Editorial note: Originally published on February 20, 2019.
As of May 9, 2019, Doug Baldwin is no longer a member of the Seattle Seahawks after being cut by the team. All indications are that his injuries will force him to retire.
In case you weren’t aware, Tyler Lockett is the WR1 in Seattle.
This isn’t something new, the torch was actually passed in 2018. I expect Lockett to continuing carrying it though, so I figured it was time to sound the trumpet for the dynasty fantasy football masses.
I don’t make this statement or take this responsibility lightly. Crowning a player a team’s WR1 is a big deal – it’s a prestige booster, a rankings changer, a label change to the cool kid clique. I’ll defend the position momentarily, but first I need to pay tribute to a crafty, late-blooming, former undrafted rookie free agent who helped me win a handful of titles from 2015 to 2017.
Scoring 11 touchdowns over a five-week span during fantasy football season crunch time will earn a man some fans. Posting year-end PPR finishes of WR10, WR8, and WR14 in successive seasons after being added for free from the dynasty waiver wire trash heap is the stuff of which legends are made. I’m talking of course, about Doug Baldwin, who ranks third all-time in receiving touchdowns among undrafted wide receivers, trailing only Wes Welker and Rod Smith. Thanks for the ride, Doug, it was more fun than you know.
Now, regarding the title of this article, why is it important to know who the WR1 is in Seattle? Russell Wilson’s fantasy WR1 over past four seasons has never ranked worse than a high PPR WR2, with two finishes as a PPR WR1. Despite the offensive (at times) Seattle passing offense, we want to own Wilson’s go-to player in fantasy.
Mirror Image: Tyler Lockett 2018 | 2017 Doug Baldwin
Did you know Lockett was the PPR WR16 (221.4 pts) in 2018? It feels like it’s a secret!
Lockett’s 13.8 PPR per game ranked 24th. Lockett posted career highs in receptions, receiving yards, yards per reception, touchdowns, and catch percentage, among other measurables. He scored double-digit points in 13 of 16 games and hit the end zone in 10 separate contests.
In 2017, Baldwin finished as PPR WR14, scoring 222.3 in PPR leagues and 13.9 PPR per game.
Though the production was essentially identical, the roles of the players weren’t exactly the same in each of those seasons. Lockett only saw 70 targets in 2018, a number that will need to creep to the triple-digit range to insulate his floor in 2019 and beyond. Baldwin saw 116 targets in 2017. A clear efficiency win for Lockett, yes, but we want efficiency and volume. Why am I so confident Lockett will remain the superior fantasy option moving forward?
Lockett Never Left the Field in 2018
Per the RotoViz Player Usage App, Lockett’s 2018 snap percentage was 94.7, ranking 16th among wide receivers with at least 10 games played and ahead of other fantasy studs like Juju Smith-Schuster, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs. Seattle teammates Baldwin and David Moore posted snap percentages of 75.3 and 57.1, respectively. Buried in those numbers is that Baldwin’s season was highly injury-limited, but at age 30 it’s the type of thing we’ve come to expect in the NFL.
Lockett Did His Damage With Baldwin in the Lineup
Per the RotoViz Game Splits App, though he shone most brightly in the three games the Baldwin missed in 2018, Lockett still scored at a 13.5 PPR clip with Baldwin in the lineup. It’s worth noting that the team did funnel Lockett an additional two targets per game in Baldwin’s absence.
This was an important data pull because as I looked to cross-check my position on Lockett, there was a small worry that he’d exploded in the few games Baldwin missed and that his scoring was propped up by those weeks. Clearly, that’s not the case.
In his fourth season, Lockett posted the highest adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) of any pass catcher in Russell Wilson’s career.
Why do we care about AYA? The R-Squared is 0.58 when plotting AYA with football win/loss records. Here’s AYA for every pass catcher to see at least 50 Wilson targets over his career:
Over what is now a 275-target sample, it’s not a major stretch to say Lockett is the best pass catcher Wilson has ever been paired with in terms of improving the team’s win/loss probability on a per-target basis.
The Time to Buy is Now
Declaring Lockett the WR1 would still be fun, but obviously it would be less actionable or important if he was already priced as such in dynasty leagues. However, as of February, he’s coming off the board as WR31 per Dynasty League Football mock drafts and sports a startup average draft position in the sixth round. I find these prices to be highly conservative and they illustrate a community that is unsure of what to do with the player at the moment.
Lockett is signed through the 2021 season and is entering his age 26 season – he’s going to be tied to Wilson through his prime years, and we saw what that looked like for Baldwin. The community was late to value Baldwin properly and I think it’s happening again with his successor. Even if I’m wrong about 2019 and Baldwin ends up having a swan song season, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and is battling chronic knee issues. Lockett is the future in Seattle and the time to buy him at a price which doesn’t reflect it is waning.
Some potential trade offers to float for Lockett include mid-2019 first round rookie picks or bigger “name-brand” receivers such as A.J. Green (plus juice) or Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins, or Will Fuller straight up. If you’re looking for a position-position pivot, my favorite running back to flip for Lockett right now would be Tevin Coleman.
Editorial note: These prices will no longer be available as Curtis expects a sharp rise in ADP and trade value for Lockett moving forward. He can be treated as a legitimate WR2 in 2019 and in dynasty. If you already bought, enjoy your new roster equity!