The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Tyler Lockett
Editor’s Note: As outlined in the Path to WR1 Primer article, The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season article series will showcase WRs who are currently ranked outside of the top-15 receivers in Andy, Mike, and Jason’s initial PPR rankings. We are identifying players that possibly have a shot at finishing the year as a WR1. We are NOT projecting a WR1 end of the year total but merely giving the high-end range of outcomes for players to show what type of ceiling is in the realm of possibilities.
Myself and the rest of the writing staff have been churning out great content all offseason. For more great Path to a WR1 Season articles, check out these features on Mike Williams, D.J. Moore, Julian Edelman, Robby Anderson, Chris Godwin, and Sammy Watkins.
Tyler Lockett was uber-efficient last year for the Seahawks hauling in ten TD receptions on just 57 receptions; but in order to truly predict the outcomes for Lockett in 2019, we need to start by breaking down his 2018 season in more detail first. Let’s recap Lockett’s 2018 season, project what a WR1 season would look like based on the most important fantasy categories, and finally give the percentage likelihood of a WR1 campaign in 2019.
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2018 Season Recap
Last season was a true breakout campaign for Lockett, as he finished in career highs in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, yards per target, and catch percentage. The guy was on fire, and every time a fantasy analyst said Tyler Lockett’s crazy efficiency would come back to Earth, it didn’t.[lptw_table id=”160040″ style=”default”]
How efficient was Lockett in 2018? He ranked 57th in the NFL in receptions but tied for 6th in the league in receiving TDs and finished as the WR14 in half PPR in 2018. He had a TD rate of 17.5%, meaning 17.5% of his receptions went for a TD. Lockett’s 16.93 yards per reception ranked 6th in the NFL amongst wide receivers behind only DeSean Jackson, Josh Gordon, Mike Evans, John Brown, and Tyreek Hill.
To further explore just out efficient Lockett was in 2018, let’s look at Russell Wilson’s 2018 season as well. The Seahawks were no doubt a run-first offense last year, rushing the ball 32.8 times per game, second in the NFL last season. Not surprising, Wilson threw the ball 454 times last year, an average of 28.4 times per game, which ranked 20th in the NFL. At the same time, he threw 35 TD passes, the most in his 7-year NFL career. Wilson also posted an 8.2% TD rate, by far the best of his career. To put this in perspective, Wilson’s previous career high in this statistic was 7.0% and his career average prior to 2018 was just 5.7%.
According to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, Tyler Lockett was excellent in 2018 from a route running perspective. Per Harmon, Lockett’s 74% success rate against man coverage was the second best of his career and was an 89th percentile score. On the flip side, Lockett was targeted on just 16.7% of his routes in the games that Harmon scouted, which was second lowest among all receivers charted for Reception Perception. Take home point: Lockett succeeded when he faced man coverage at an excellent rate, but Wilson didn’t target him all that often in general relative to the number of routes Tyler Lockett ran in 2018.
Clearly, last season was efficient…very efficient. It’s not going to surprise anyone when Tyler Lockett and Russell Wilson’s efficiency comes down in 2019, but with Lockett now sitting firmly atop the Seahawks’ depth chart at the WR position, does it really matter? Let’s examine the path for Tyler Lockett in 2019.
The Path for 2019
Tyler Lockett finished as WR14 in fantasy football in 2018, so in theory, he only has to climb two spots in order to finish as a top-12 option at the WR position. What are his chances if we are expecting a decline in efficiency? Surely, he’ll need more targets, receptions, and yards in order to make the jump into the top-12. Let’s examine each of these categories in more detail to find out how possible it truly is that Tyler Lockett finishes as a top-12 WR in fantasy football.
Targets – Lockett saw 71 targets in 2018, coming in at an average of 4.4 per game. Surely, this number should grow in 2019 now that Lockett is firmly entrenched as Russell Wilson’s top target. However, it’s important to understand that the Seahawks’ offensive philosophy is likely to limit Lockett’s targets given the limited pass attempts relative to other offenses in the NFL. Check out this data on Russell Wilson’s most targeted player from each season dating back to his rookie year in 2012.
Historically, in the Wilson era, Seattle doesn’t have an alpha receiver that gets 150 targets; so inherently, the ceiling is capped in this category for Lockett. I do expect him to get more targets in 2019 compared to 2018, but it’s very difficult to see a scenario where he gets more than 100 targets based off the run-first offense and the history of the top receiver in the Seattle offense.
Receptions – With Lockett expected to see more targets in 2019, he should certainly see more receptions. 50 receptions are gone with Doug Baldwin hanging up his cleats, 34 receptions are vacated with the exit of Mike Davis to Chicago. I expect D.K. Metcalf to see the majority of Baldwin’s receptions, likely in the 30-40 reception range. That definitely leaves room for improvement for Lockett, but fantasy owners need to be honest in that while Lockett is probably going to set a new career high in receptions this season, he probably won’t top 85 catches. Why? His current career high is just 57, and over the course of the past 5 seasons, Russell Wilson’s reception leader is on average at 74, and that’s with the pass-heavy seasons of 2015 and 2016. Look for Lockett to reel in about 70 catches in 2018.
Yards – There is very little doubt that Tyler Lockett won’t be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to receiving yards in 2019 for the Seahawks. The rest of the receiver depth chart is barren, and his biggest competition for targets is a 2nd round rookie wide receiver in D.K. Metcalf. Last season, Lockett posted 965 receiving yards, and I expect a similar type of production this year. As previously mentioned, Lockett posted his best yards per reception (16.9) last season, so with regression in mind, expect that to come down closer to his career average of 14.2. If Lockett can increase his reception total in 2019, he should be able to put up about 950 – 1,000 receiving yards in 2019.
TDs – Lockett smashed his previous career best (6) in TD production last season with his first double-digit campaign as a professional. D.K. Metcalf (who measures in at 6’3” 228 lbs.) is probably going to be Wilson’s favorite WR target close to the goal line, so expect Metcalf and David Moore to steal some of the looks close to the end zone. In addition, the team will certainly utilize the running backs, Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson, heavily once inside the red zone. Last year, Chris Carson’s 41 rush attempts inside the 20-yard line ranked 7th in the NFL. Clearly, the team will want to pound the rock into the end zone, so Lockett is going to continue to have to rely on deep TD receptions. 8-10 TD receptions is probably the most realistic scenario for Lockett.
WR1 Possibility for 2019: Moderate (20-40%)
This percentage is based off the Fantasy Footballers writing staff and the prior data on Lockett and the Seahawks’ passing offense. As previously mentioned, Lockett finished as WR14 in half PPR, but he had to do it all on career bests in the statistical categories mentioned above and on an offense that is definitely going to want to run the ball. Based off the discussion above, it’s hard to see a scenario where Lockett tops 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and ten TDs. With this stat line as his projected ceiling, Tyler Lockett poses low-end WR1 upside in fantasy football, but in the most realistic scenario, he’s probably more of a rock-solid WR2 for your fantasy lineup.
To put this in perspective, DeAndre Hopkins would probably be something more like 90%. Donte Moncrief is probably closer to 5%.
Tyler Lockett’s efficiency from 2018 most certainly has to come down in 2019, but with an increase in volume via targets, receptions, and yards, he will most likely finish as a mid-range WR2. If there are any injuries to the studs ranked in front of him, Lockett could sneak into the top-12 at the position.