An ode to Tyler Lockett’s miraculous 2018 season

August 7th, 2019.  It is day 91 AD (After Doug).

The Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver room has undergone many changes since those pedestrian pass-catchers won a Super Bowl six years ago.  Though our skies are typically dark and gray, our wide receivers need not be as well. Much is unknown about Seattle’s 2019 receiving corps, but there one commodity remains that we cannot get enough of: Tyler Lockett.

Lockett spent all of 2018 making the 3-year, $31.8 million contract he signed before last season look like the Dick’s Deluxe of NFL contracts.  His 2019 cap hit is less than that of Devin Funchess, Marquise Lee, and Albert Wilson. Remembering the Seahawks have Tyler Lockett at below $10 million APY gives me the same feeling as when I found a Step Brothers and Anchorman double feature in that $5 DVD bin at my local gas station.

Just how good was Lockett’s 2018 season?  Here are the base statistics he set career-highs in last year:

  • Catches (57)
  • Yards (965)
  • Yards Per Catch (16.9)
  • Yards Per Target (13.8)*
  • Catch % (81.4%)
  • Touchdowns (10)
  • Rush Attempts (13)

* Led NFL

On 70 targets for Lockett, Russell Wilson posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating.  Even with the  inherent issues in passer rating, there’s no denying that this is impressive.  But it’s also a stat you already know. How does he stand in other advanced metrics?  Let’s start with a Seattle favorite, Football Outsiders’ DVOA.  Here are the top 10 wide receivers by DVOA in 2018.

dvoa

The difference between Lockett and second-ranked Mike Williams is more than an entire Mike Evans.  It’s actually the best wide receiver DVOA since 1986, which is as far back as the data goes.  Now, some may point out that DVOA is calculated on a per-play basis, so while Lockett was ridiculously efficient on his 70 targets, he couldn’t possibly have added as much total value as guys with triple-digit targets like DeAndre Hopki-

dyar

Again from Football Outsiders, DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement) measures the total yardage value of a wide receiver in relation to a replacement-level player.  It’s a volume stat, and even with only half the targets of nearly everyone else in the top 10, Lockett comes out on top. He finished 2018 with the highest DYAR since Antonio Brown’s 2015 season.  If he’d had two more targets per game he would’ve broken the scale.

Now that we’ve seen where he stands against the league’s top wideouts, let’s take a closer look at exactly when and where Lockett makes his biggest impact on the Seahawks.  Here’s how the Seattle passing game looked in 2018, split by down.

seahawks receivers by down

Expected Points — and in turn Expected Points Added (EPA) — evaluate plays based on down, distance, and field position, measuring how successful a play is. Lockett was far and away the best passing option by EPA on first down.  On second down, he still accumulated more EPA than Doug Baldwin despite Baldwin having 64% more targets. No matter the situation, Lockett produced.

sea success and yds past sticks

Here we see each Seahawks receiver’s success rate (defined as percentage of plays resulting in positive EPA) on each down, compared to how far their average route was in relation to the first down marker.  Not surprisingly, wide receivers run deeper routes than running backs and tight ends, but let’s take a closer look at just third down.

sea success and yds past sticks 3rd down

As expected, throwing short of the sticks on third down (Ed Dickson’s small sample size notwithstanding) generally leads to a lower success rate.  The more interesting note here is Lockett’s average depth. Rather than running a route right around the sticks to get the 1st down, Lockett ran nearly 6 yards past the marker on average.  For reference, the NFL average for players with at least 20 targets on third down was 1.47 yards. Only two players averaged more than 5 yards past the marker while maintaining a success rate above 50%: Mike Evans and Tyler Lockett.

nfl success and yds past sticks 3rd down

Tyler Lockett was an elite wide receiver in 2018, full stop.  No matter where you look, he’s sitting somewhere near the top.  And the best part? He’s only 26. He could still be improving over the next two seasons, as wide receivers will often hit their peak around age 26-27

With Baldwin sidelined for much of the 2018 season, Lockett has already proven that he can handle the responsibility of being Seattle’s number one wide receiver.  The Russ-Tyler connection is going to be a blast for years to come.


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