The Path To A WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Tyler Lockett
Despite putting up four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and 45 total touchdowns since 2018, Tyler Lockett always seems to be a forgotten man in fantasy when heading into a new NFL season.
His counterpart in Seattle, DK Metcalf, garners most of the headlines, and deservedly so. But in 2020, Lockett finished as the WR8, just one spot behind Metcalf. The following season, the veteran wideout finished as the WR16 compared to the WR14 for Metcalf but scored just three points less. He actually finished ahead of his teammate last year by 11 fantasy points, good for the WR13 spot. Yet the majority of the fantasy community, including Andy and Jason, project Metcalf to have a better 2023 campaign than “Hot Lockett” by a huge margin.
But Mike has not forgotten about the 30-year-old veteran, ranking him as a borderline WR1 at WR15. Lockett hasn’t finished worse than the WR16 in the last five years including one top-12 finish. Let’s take a closer look to see how he can crack the upper tier of wide receivers yet again.
Last season saw the departure of Russell Wilson, a future Hall of Fame quarterback and the only signal-caller Lockett had known since entering the league in 2015. Enter Geno Smith, a career backup who had played in 15 total games since Lockett’s rookie season.
A drop-off was expected for Lockett and Seattle’s offense as a whole, but the Seahawks proved doubters wrong by making the playoffs and finishing with a better record than they did in 2021. Smith even won the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year award for his exceptional play at the QB position.
Lockett led the team with nine receiving touchdowns on 84 receptions, seeing 117 targets in 16 games. He missed just his third game ever in his eight-year career after breaking a bone in his left hand in Week 15. The fact that he missed just one game after having surgery on his hand was a miraculous feat in itself.
The Path for 2023
The biggest question heading into this season has nothing to do with Lockett himself, but the fact that the Seahawks selected Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the 20th pick in the first round – The first wide receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft.
If holding off Metcalf wasn’t enough, Lockett now has to contend with Smith-Njigba, a dynamic rookie who is currently being drafted one spot ahead of Lockett in Underdog Fantasy best ball drafts.
In 2022, Lockett saw a 22.8% target share compared to Metcalf’s 25.5% share. With Smith-Njigba in the fold, there will likely be a slight downtick in targets for both players. However, Marquise Goodwin saw 42 targets last year which the rookie will soak up, and there’s a good chance he’ll eat into the tight end targets – 135 total split three ways between Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, and “Big Montana” Will Dissly. So it’s still probable that Lockett will see upwards of a 20% target share.
Receptions & Catch Rate
Lockett has reached the 100-reception mark just once in his career and has averaged 84 receptions over the last four seasons, the exact number he hit last year. His catch rate was a healthy 71.8%, which ranked 12th among wide receivers last season who saw at least 50 targets and is also ironically his career average.
Lockett’s chemistry with Smith should improve heading into their second full season together, which should result in more receptions and a better catch rate. He is also one of the best receivers at making difficult catches, ranking third among wideouts in 2021 according to NFL Next Gen Stats’ catch rate over expected metric.
Yards & aDOT
Based on his consistency, ability to stay healthy, and development as an all-around wide receiver, Lockett is a virtual lock (no pun intended) to top 1,000 receiving yards for a fifth straight season.
In his younger days, Lockett was known more as a speedster who could take the top off the defense, which equated to a higher aDOT rating. With the defense giving him more space these days to avoid getting burned, that number dropped last season to 10.6, his second-lowest since 2018.
- 2018 – 13.6 aDOT
- 2019 – 12.4 aDOT
- 2020 – 9.7 aDOT
- 2021 – 14.6 aDOT
- 2022 – 10.6 aDOT
The additional threat of Smith-Njigba plus a reliable running game led by Kenneth Walker and rookie Zach Charbonnet could open up more opportunities for Lockett downfield like in the old days, especially with a quarterback like Smith who likes to air it out.
Touchdowns might be the toughest stat to predict, but Lockett hasn’t had any trouble finding the end zone over his career. He’s averaged nine touchdowns a year over the last five seasons, ranking him fifth overall in that span behind only Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, and Travis Kelce. That’s elite company.
Smith threw a respectable 30 passing touchdowns last season, and if that number goes up by just a couple more, Lockett could be the main beneficiary. Based on his track record, double-digit touchdowns are not only possible but probable.
Lockett is one of the steadiest players in fantasy football, yet is somehow overlooked each and every season. He’s rarely drafted as a top-20 WR, despite finishing as a bonafide WR2 in four of the last five seasons. Even when he finished as the WR8 in 2020, he was relegated to a middle-round selection in most fantasy drafts the following year.
In the latest mock draft between The Ballers, Mike was able to draft Lockett in the middle of the sixth round and might have been able to get him even a round later. The value is off the charts for a player who has borderline WR1 potential.
To reach the upper echelon of wide receivers, Lockett doesn’t have to change much, that’s the beauty of it. He possesses all the tools necessary to finish as a WR1: a high-powered offense, talented teammates who take the focus off of him, and a track record of staying healthy and scoring a boatload of touchdowns. Not to mention a favorable schedule against defenses that are projected to give up a hefty amount of points (minus the San Francisco 49ers of course).
While the future of the position in Seattle will inevitably belong to Metcalf and Smith-Njigba, that’s still a couple of years away. Lockett still has more than enough in the tank to fuel a WR1 season in 2023.