(Editor's note: This has been promoted to the front page)
The Curious Case of Tyler Lockett Part II
Yesterday, I took a look at the phenomenal Tyler Lockett and his somewhat surprising lack of yards after catch. I wanted to follow that up today with a deeper dive into what this actually looked like on the field last year.
Before reading, please give yourself the gift of enjoying this compilation of every Tyler Lockett grab from 2020. After watching, I concluded two things:
- I have no excuse for not already owning a Tyler Lockett jersey, and
- Tyler Lockett gets more incredible every time I watch him play.
But rather than dwell on how excellent he is, I want to again focus on the question at hand: where are the yards after catch? This is not to suggest that Lockett didn't perform uncanny feats of excellence last season... just that it would always be a soothing sight for sore eyes to see a few more plays like this one:
That isn't some slow-footed linebacker getting his ankles broke, that is 4.33 corner Jonathan Jones getting juked out of his shoes! Lockett has undoubtedly lost a bit of explosiveness after his traumatic broken leg, but he can still put the moves on. But how many opportunities did he really have to do so last season?
To answer my own question, I tabulated by hand every catch from the 2020 season, separating them into four categories -- Room to run, Out of bounds, Tackled immediately, and Touchdown. The last one should be obvious, but for the other three, my rationale is as follows:
Room to run: Defined as a catch where Lockett had time to make a football move before being hit or running out of bounds.
Out of bounds: Plays outside the numbers where his motion in catching the pass carried him out of bounds before he could make a move.
Tackled immediately: Catches where the defender was draped all over Lockett OR already driving into him when he made the grab.
A couple further notes about my methods -- many of the "room to run" catches may have ultimately gone out of bounds, resulted in a quick tackle, or ended quite abruptly otherwise after the reception. My rationale for separating these from the other two categories was essentially the same rationale as what would constitute a "catch and fumble" as opposed to a "dropped pass." That is, if the ball had popped free when Lockett was hit or came loose when he went out of bounds, would this have been considered a dropped pass or would it have been ruled a fumble? If it would have been the former, then I considered it a "tackled immediately/out of bounds" catch. If it would have been the latter, then I think it is fair to say he had "room to run." The important thing to note here is that many catches where he had "room to run" by my logic would still have required pretty extraordinary effort to turn into anything significant. But, because every yard counts for something, I included them as such. And because Tyler Lockett is a pretty extraordinary guy.
Per my tabulations, Lockett's distribution can be seen below:
I would like to say here that there is some obvious margin for error; I watched the compilation several times to confirm these numbers, but there were some judgement calls to be made. I tried to give Lockett the benefit of the doubt. If it was close, I considered it a "tackled/out of bounds" play so as not to judge too harshly. But if you watch the clips and disagree with my logic, please comment below!
One thing that surprised me in the reel was how frequently Lockett was targeted on short routes this season. In my analysis yesterday, I noted how Lockett's average depth of target (aDOT) last season was his lowest of the Schottenheimer era -- 9.7 in 2020, as opposed to 12.4 in 2019 and 13.6 in 2018. Still, this was not exactly what I expected, as the most memorable receptions, at least in my mind, were the toe taps, the touchdowns, the one handers... basically, all of the highlight reel worthy plays that are so quintessentially "Tyler Lockett" and have endeared this particular Seahawk to so many of our hearts. Plays like these:
Tyler Lockett only needs one hand— PFF (@PFF) January 9, 2021
Tyler Lockett rewards the Russell Wilson dime with a one-handed SNAG pic.twitter.com/0k5WZvgwDn— PFF (@PFF) October 26, 2020
But appearances can be deceiving, so I decided to truth the observation with a little more research. According to Sharp Football Stats, Tyler Lockett's catch distribution from 2020 generally supports the previous claim. Of his 136 targets last season, 83% of those were considered "short," indicating a pass traveling fewer than 15 yards in the air. This means that only 17% of passes thrown his way were considered "deep," or traveling 15+ yards in the air. Below are two charts, the first indicating percentage of targets by field placement, along with their corresponding passer rating. The second chart indicates actual number of targets and corresponding success rate. I don't want to take up too much space here explaining these metrics, so for more information, please visit Sharp Football Stats.
These numbers paint an incomplete picture, however. Even in an offense like Seattle's that was a vertical, deep-ball-oriented scheme, any NFL team is going to feature a lot of passes that travel fewer than 15 yards in the air. So for a clearer comparison, how do Lockett's numbers stack up against a teammate? More specifically, how do they stack up against pacifier mouthpiece wearing wunderkind DK Metcalf?
A couple immediate observations: DK Metcalf received six fewer targets, overall, than Lockett, per Sharp Football Stats, but nearly doubled his number of deep targets; however, Lockett was generally more efficient across the board. In fact, the only area of the field where Wilson's passer rating dipped below 100 when targeting Tyler was on passes to deep right. Conversely, when targeting Metcalf, Wilson's rating dipped below 100 on targets deep left AND right, as well as short left. This is a long way of saying what we already knew: While Metcalf found his way on to many a Top 10 last season, Locket was the more reliable pass catcher. And just for the sake of posterity, here is one more Tyler Lockett reception from 2020:
Tyler Lockett is on a different planet right now pic.twitter.com/6do0SMch70— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) October 26, 2020
Another way to look at these statistics is this: the Seahawks had two incredible receivers last season, and most teams in the leagues should be so lucky as to be comparing to such players. The last thing that I would want readers to take away from this piece is that I think Lockett underperforms. Rather, Tyler Lockett overperforms. He set a team record for receptions last season. He is the rare combination of electricity AND consistency. But like all great players before him, there is always hope that he will continue to play at a high level and reach even greater peaks of excellence in each successive season.
As has been the topic of discussion lately, the arrival of Shane Waldron likely means the offense that takes the field in 2021 will look at least somewhat different than what we have seen over the last three years. Regardless, I fully expect the one-handed, toe-tapping displays of unmatched excellence to return once more. But will we also see a few more hapless slot corners and mismatched linebackers get juked out of their shoes?
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