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You Think You Are High on Tyler Lockett, But You Aren’t High Enough

Everyone loves Tyler Lockett. He’s fast, explosive, and hell, he even has a great smile. Lockett proved to be an enormous fantasy value last year, as he was drafted as the WR53 in the 11th round but finished the season as WR16. 

Lockett’s breakout season is probably why you’re high on him and why you feel comfortable drafting him at his current ADP (51st overall). But, in the words of Rocky Balboa, “Let me tell you something:” you are still too low on Lockett.

Elite Efficiency

Over the offseason, Seattle re-signed Russell Wilson, one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL, to a 4-year extension. The summer before they locked up Lockett through 2022.  The Seahawks know what they have with this connection, but few people realize just how special it is.

The RotoViz AYA App does a great job of showing the elite connection. Here is the list of quarterback to WR combos that have been better in the same amount of time.

  •     Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson (11.54)
  •     Drew Brees to Kenny Stills (12.01)

That’s it — there are only two examples. For a little more context, Patrick Mahomes has a 10.58 AYA when throwing to Tyreek Hill and Matt Ryan has a 9.76 AYA when throwing to Julio Jones.

Over the 2018 season, Wilson’s AYA was 16.41 when targeting Lockett, which was absolutely insane, and well above the second-highest connection of Philip Rivers to Mike Williams at 12.41. The efficiency will regress, but with Lockett’s projected boost in targets and opportunity, it won’t matter. 

Increased Opportunity 

The absence of Doug Baldwin will help Lockett. Baldwin has led the Seahawks in targets for the past five years and is no longer with the team. While some WRs don’t excel when given an elevated role, Lockett has improved. The Game Splits App confirms that Lockett has been more productive in games without Baldwin throughout his career.

Having the best AYA of current QB/WR tandems and the ability to perform as the WR1 for the Seahawks is significant. But what can Lockett’s past performance and future roll tell us about what we can expect in 2019?

Projecting Lockett’s 2019 Season

Are the Seahawks Too Run-Heavy?

Over the last three years, the Seahawks have run between 961 and 970 total plays and have ranged from a 58% pass rate down to a 44% pass rate last year. This run-heavy approach has many people nervous, but even looking at a worst-case scenario, reason for optimism exists.

The Seahawks have 96 vacated WR targets from last season, and now second-round pick D.K. Metcalf needs knee surgery. Using the RotoViz Projection Machine we can see what happens if even a portion of these targets are allocated to Lockett. Let’s bump him from an 18% target share to 24%.  

These conservative numbers, based on last year’s total plays and run/pass ratios, lead to a productive 2019 for Lockett.  This projection uses his career averages for catch rate, yards per reception, and touchdown rate.

This output results in 223 PPR points — not quite elite, but more than Lockett scored last season as WR16.

Pathway to Stardom

The likeliest scenario, however, is that the Seahawks move toward a more normal pass-to-run ratio. Last season was the first time since 2015 that an NFL team rushed at a higher percentage than they threw the ball.  The defense has lost notable defensive stars to trades, free agency, and suspension, and could struggle at times, leading to negative game scripts. This leads to an increase in pass ratio, albeit still on the less fortunate side of a 50/50 split.

This increase in pass attempts, coupled with improvements from his overall career numbers in terms of yards per catch, TD rate, and catch rate — while still not as high as his 2018 levels — results in elite production.

Inserting these few tweaks in the Projection Machine, and we can see a path to a major breakout.

Based on the projections above, expect a solid season-long line from Lockett. For context, 259.3 PPR points would have landed him 0.8 points behind Keenan Allen as WR13 in PPR. While Allen is being drafted as WR11 at the end of Round 2, Lockett is going in the fifth round. Lockett has the opportunity to produce as a high-end WR2 on fantasy squads, and he is being priced well below that. My worst-case projection for a healthy Lockett is a top-24 WR with boom and bust weeks. The ceiling … well, it’s up there with the stars.

Image Credit: Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Tyler Lockett.

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