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Seahawks 30 under 30: Tyler Lockett could be the second-best player on this team

NFL: Pro Bowl-Team Rice Practice Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have a very good roster, but what's especially nice and hopeful about their team is that the vast majority of current Seahawks are young and signed through 2017, at least. This series leading up to the regular season opener on September 11 will take a closer look at 30 such players, all of whom won't be turning 30 this year.

Player: Tyler Lockett, WR

Age: Soon-to-be 24

How acquired: Third round pick (69th overall) out of Kansas State in 2015. Seattle traded picks 95, 112, 167, and 181 to move up for Lockett

Free agent: 2019

The Seahawks traded four picks for Tyler Lockett and it already feels like he’s more valuable than four players combined. As a rookie, Lockett quickly burst onto the scene as an elite kick and punt returner, finishing the year with 25.8 yards per kick return and 9.5 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. He was named as an All-Pro in 2015 for those efforts, but his rapidly improving skills as a receiver may well cut into his time on special teams.

Now, one of the biggest annoyances of the summer for me personally has been having to fend off people who flat-out refuse to believe that Lockett won’t be returning kicks forever. Despite pretty much every piece of logic you could use about the nature of pro football when it comes to kickoffs, there’s a much bigger piece of the game that blinds people from being able to see that logic: Excitement.

Lockett is an extremely exciting player and returning a kickoff for a touchdown is often as good as it gets. It’s a rare thing to see and Lockett is good enough to do it at least once per year, if not challenge records set by the likes of special teams legends like Devin Hester. You remember Hester, right? That receiver who averages 28 catches and 368 yards per season?

Other great kickoff returners of the modern era include Leon Washington, Josh Cribbs, Dante Hall, Jacoby Jones, Terrence McGee, Justin Miller, and Cordarrelle Patterson. You know ... those other guys who rarely did/do anything outside of special teams. Let’s face some of your counter-arguments right off the bat:

  • “What about Percy Harvin?” Oh, that player whose career ended far too early because of injuries?
  • “What about Antonio Brown?” Oh, that player who was taken off of kickoff returns because he became a great receiver? The same thing that happened to Steve Smith and every other formerly-great-returner who became a great receiver.

If that wasn’t enough (and honestly, nothing will be “enough” for many people), the NFL itself is trying to discourage teams from using kickoff returners. There’s a new rule this season that takes touchbacks to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. They don’t want their stars to get injured, just like you shouldn’t want Lockett to get injured. Especially not at the price of maybe getting a couple more yards per return and maybe one touchdown per season, for a team that’s already lined up to be one of the league’s best teams.

And Lockett is definitely lining up to be one of the NFL’s top receivers.

Over the last seven games of his rookie year, Lockett had 404 yards and five touchdowns on a 75% catch rate. In the playoff loss to Carolina, he had three catches for 75 yards and another touchdown. Head coach Pete Carroll has said that Lockett will be right at the “center” of the offense this season, so a 1,000-yard season with 8-10 touchdowns seems very attainable for the second-year pro. But “best case scenario” comps to Brown and TY Hilton don’t look too crazy anymore, so a future as an elite receiver could be coming too.

And if you’re a fan of Lockett, why would you even want him taking the highest-speed hits in the game for little-to-no reason?

I’d much prefer to just watch him making a lot more plays on offense like these ones: