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Tyler Lockett: Best receiver, or first receiver, but maybe not both

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks gave Tyler Lockett a sizable extension just before the 2018 season began. He’d earned it; playing consistently well since his rookie year. In 2017, functioning on a give-and-take with Doug Baldwin as the WR1 because of Baldwin’s health, Lockett moved into the top receiver spot for the 2018 season. He performed admirably, one of the best seasons a receiver can have. Questions about his ability as a team’s primary target were unfounded.

2019 stands as quite the oddity for Lockett’s career. He started all 16 games - the first time doing so. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards - also a first. He had 110 targets, 53 first downs and 66 yards per game - all career highs.
But Lockett struggled with injuries, and had a three-game stretch of four, two, and three targets. His yards per target plummeted.

Now, in 2020, an interesting trend has developed for one of the most efficient to ever play the game. Lockett hasn’t led the Seahawks in receiving yards for four straight regular season games.

It’s been DK Metcalf for these first two games, and Week 15 of 2019 was the last time Lockett was the highest-volume receiver. He’s only been that once in the last seven regular season games now.

Shifting Sands

Lockett has been used differently this year, but it’s still too early to figure out if that is by design exclusively, or only in part. His longest reception in either game this year is one 20-yarder. Not much, by previous Wilson-to-Lockett standards. That deep cross from the right side to the left side has not happened yet.

What’s more, is that the deep routes have been given by and large to Metcalf thus far, and he’s excelling at them. Seeing as how he is both bigger and (40-yard time) faster, Wilson may be more comfortable there, while Lockett continues to excel in short, tight windows.

But that’s mere two-game speculation as Lockett simply hasn’t been given the deep routes yet.

All the while, he remains incredible at the actual reception. Lockett’s catch rate is once again the elite of the elite. He has one missed opportunity, which unfortunately counts against his catch rate because it was an non-open overthrow by Wilson.

Lockett is now 8-of-8 and 7-of-8 on the season, so it’s no pithy sample size above. Ask yourself when the last time was you remember Lockett dropping a pass.

Semantics

It’s a question that doesn’t really matter if Seattle puts up 30+ points a game, but it’s still a transition worth watching for those who enjoy the subtler points of football. Tyler Lockett was primarily a returner, then he was a good number two, then he was the best scramble option in the NFL, then he was a true number one option, and now he’s...finding another role.

Metcalf might turn into what we typically call the WR1. He did draw Stephon Gilmore, while Lockett did not. Metcalf did earn the nod on 4th-and-5 and the ridiculous 58 yard TD bomb.

Lockett, meanwhile, remains possibly the safest target in the entire league. His last-second separation is remarkable, his hands are elite, his connection with Wilson unparalleled.

Watch what happens this weekend especially. The Dallas Cowboys only have one starting-caliber corner active for Week 3, and if he draws Metcalf again then Lockett will be up against someone vastly inferior. Does he finally get unleashed deep, or will he have another eight-reception day, perhaps for bigger chunk plays than we’ve seen yet?

What is special is to have a player who seems to be so good at both. Lockett has the ability, as Schottenheimer said last year, to line up anywhere on the field and be deadly.