Last week we highlighted a piece by ESPN of the NFL’s top-10 wide receivers. Tyler Lockett was notably not on it; not even an honorable mention.
It begs the question: Is Tyler Lockett currently being underappreciated?
If you’re a fan of the Seattle Seahawks you say yes, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
But let’s take a little dive into the most recent seasons of wide receivering. Here’s the basic stats of ESPN’s chosen 10, in order.
Odell Beckham Jr.
That’s a lot of numbers, but for a quick summary look no further than AV - Pro Football Reference’s “Approximate Value” they assign to each player each season. Getting anything above a 10 is pretty difficult, and a glance at the multiple 13-18s put up by Jones, Thomas, and Hopkins is ridiculous.
But obviously AV is not the end-all of metrics, and comparing Lockett across the board to the other ten is exactly our quest. Here’s Lockett’s baseline stats as well to get things started.
There’s a lot to uncover, so let’s dive in with some of the more obvious and tired arguments.
Theory: Tyler Lockett suffers because he’s not in a volume system
Conclusion: false, mostly.
It’s true, Lockett has fewer yards per year than everyone on this list. But his place behind Doug Baldwin in a offense that only has enough volume for a WR1 appears to be what really dragged down his career average. In the last two years he’s racked up a higher yard per season average than Chris Godwin, and his trajectory somewhat resembles DaVante Adams in this stat. Furthermore, Lockett had over 30% of his team’s air yards last season, which does not put him at the level of Thomas or OBJ or Jones, but it’s the exact same as Amari Cooper or Keenan Allen.
Theory: Well then Tyler Lockett must not score enough touchdowns to get name recognition
Conclusion: so false you should be slapped for thinking it.
There’s 10 receivers on this beautifully crafted ESPN list that I assume took days of research and gallons of coffee.
Want to guess how many of them had more touchdowns in the last two seasons that Lockett’s 18 TD?
One. Tyreek Hill. Tied with two, more than the other seven.
Theory: Ok it’s gotta be because Lockett is short, right?
Except Tyreek Hill is 5’10” so that doesn’t really work.
Theory: I’ve figured it out it’s because he can’t make degree-of-difficulty catches like OBJ’s one-hander
Conclusion: slap yourself this time.
How on did Tyler Lockett make that catch vs. the Rams pic.twitter.com/ZvDDXizDSn— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 18, 2020
Well then what gives?
In short, I’d suggest it’s a couple of things. Truly, Lockett is about 30-40 targets per season short of the guys at the very top. Besides that, he’s pretty comparable. While I think he needs to do what he’s done the last two seasons for about two more years, because he’ll never get 150 targets it might not be enough to change national opinion. For crying out loud Russell Wilson has done.....some of everything, and he still can’t get some moron to think he’s better than the 9th best QB in America.
I’m not saying Lockett deserves to be on this list right now (but would an honorable mention kill you?), but one can argue that he is as good a player as most of the bottom half, if not more. If he keeps this up for another two years, it’s obviously no guarantee that he’ll start appearing on top-10 lists, but he will have absolutely outplayed his second contract.
Advanced Statistics, 2019
Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the performance on plays where this WR caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. From our infallible top-10 list:
- 1- Michael Thomas
- 2- Chris Godwin
- 3- Amari Cooper
- 4- Tyler Lockett
- 5- Calvin Ridley
Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number represents value, per play, over an average WR in the same game situations. I went further on this list, because it was necessary to get a few more of the boys on this one. In order atop the NFL:
- Terrance Williams
- AJ Brown
- Kenny Stills
- Tyler Lockett
- Stefon Diggs
- Lockett, 2nd in NFL
- Kenny Stills
- Hopkins, 11th in NFL
Tyler Lockett had two drops on catchable passes all season.
Effective Yards, translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate. Effective Yards are not the best way to measure total value because they are more dependent on usage than DYAR.
Note that this stat is regarded less reliable specifically “because they are more dependent on usage”. And yet, here comes Lockett, 10th in the NFL in EYARDS. Ahead of Adams, OBJ, and Tyreek Hill.
HAVE I MENTIONED YET THAT LOCKETT WAS HURT THIS YEAR
Anyway, we’re not done yet here’s some more fun stuff from our favorite fun-sized hero.
- Tyler Lockett had the NFL’s highest passer rating when playing out of the slot in 2019
- Lockett’s 3.3 yards of separation was higher than any of the ten WR listed earlier. That’s right, Lockett was doing a social distance and a half away from defenders even before it was cool
People talk about volume, but Lockett was really low in the league in one interesting category. Yards After Catch, but a modified version, signified by a +.YAC+ is some funky stuff, but here’s perhaps the best description:
YAC+ estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations. This is imperfect due to variations in YAC stemming from the routes the receivers run, but it does a fairly good job of telling you if this receiver gets more or less YAC than other receivers with similar usage patterns.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have found something in which Lockett does not excel.
In fact, he’s quite bad. Football Outsiders ranked Lockett as one of the 20 worst receivers in the league at YAC+ in 2019. 64th, to be precise.
So there you have it. The definitive answer is that Lockett is not going anywhere after he catches the flying football, and someone should really tell him to try that out a little bit more so he can get one of these super-neato offseason mentions.
The dude is really good, is probably better than most people think, and might be set up for the career-long Seattle snub that is becoming all too familiar for offensive Seahawks.