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An appreciative look at the first 6 years of Tyler Lockett’s career

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Seahawks at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While researching another article, I started digging into Tyler Lockett’s career and was reminded of just how fortunate we are to have him playing here in the Pacific Northwest.

I was also reminded that it almost didn’t happen.

If you don’t have an Instagram account, this 2016 FG article by Danny Kelly provides the full copy-and-paste of Lockett’s emotional post. The short version is that he had some doctors at the NFL Combine that told him he might have to give up football (!!).

Thank the football gods he didn’t.


Before reading any further, I highly recommend watching this 12-minute video by K-State Sports: Tyler Lockett | My Story.


Acquiring Mr. Lockett

Kansas v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Almost any website you look at will tell you that Tyler Lockett was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, #69 overall. However, like most things that are Lockett-related, it pays to look a little deeper.

You see, the Seahawks didn’t actually have pick #69 in the 2015 draft; they had pick #95. But they really wanted Tyler Lockett so they made a trade with Washington. To move up 26 spots, the Seahawks sent four picks to the team from our nation’s capital: #95 (R3), #112 (R4), #167 (R5), and #181 (R6).

The trade was somewhat shocking at the time since it’s usually Seattle on the fat-end of a 4-for-1 trade. Some thought that Seattle gave up too much. Others disagreed.

Note: According to the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, Seattle was on the positive side of the trade by 14.6 points (245 in, 230.4 out). Those that favor the Rich Hill chart would point out that Seattle ended up on the negative side by 14 points (71 in, 85 out).

Of course, given the benefit of hindsight, I think all would agree that if either team “lost” that trade, it was not the Seahawks.

NFL: DEC 10 Vikings at Seahawks Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For those that are curious, here’s what happened with the picks that Washington got from Seattle in that trade:

2015.R3.95: RB Matt Jones - started 7 of the 20 games he played for Washington across 2 seasons and had a total of 1,327 scrimmage yards (950 rushing, 377 receiving) with 7 TDs (6+1). Played 5 games for the Colts in 2017 (5 carries, 14 yards). No longer in the league.

2015.R4.112: RG Arie Kouandijo - had 2 stints with Washington; took 1 offensive snap in 2015 + 128 in 2016 (stint #1); took 424 offensive snaps in 2017 (stint #2); 66 career snaps on special teams. No longer in the league.

2015.R4.167: Traded to the New Orleans Saints for pick #187 and a 2016 R6.

2015.R6.181: S Kyshoen Jarrett - played all 16 games for Washington in 2015 with 6 starts. Failed to make an active roster in 2016. No longer in the league.

2015.R6.187: WR Evan Spencer - released on final cut with injury designation; signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad; activated for 1 game in 2015. No longer in the league.

2016.R6.187: QB Nate Sudfeld - was Washington’s 3rd-string QB in 2015 (inactive all 16 games); waived September 2017 and signed to Philly’s practice squad; threw a total of 37 passes for the Eagles, completing 25 for 188 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Currently on San Francisco’s roster with Jimmy G, Trey Lance, and Josh Rosen.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Lockett’s rookie season

It took Tyler Lockett (aka NoE) no time whatsoever to make an impact in the NFL.

  • Preseason kickoff returns: 7 for 262 yards (avg. 37.4); 1 touchdown
  • Preseason punt returns: 4 for 105 yards (avg. 26.3); 1 touchdown

To give that some context, there were 7 return touchdowns league-wide during the 2015 preseason and Tyler Lockett had 2 of them.

The kickoff return touchdown came in the very first preseason game, against the Broncos. It was a 103-yard return that started on one side of the field and ended with Lockett sprinting down the opposite sideline.

Lockett’s second return touchdown came the following week against San Diego. This one gets 2 links:

  • Link #1 is an extremely-super-excellent Seahawks.com article (with field-level video).
  • Link #2 is a video of the punt return set to Mario Kart music.
Nintendo Releases Mario Kart 8 For Wii U Getty Images

2 preseason games = 2 return TDs = league on notice

And then it got real. FAST.

...

Week 1, 2015: Seahawks at Rams

Seattle got the ball first but their drive stalled at the Rams’ 40 after a dozen plays (one of them a 7-yard catch by Lockett).

The Rams took over at their 12 and went backwards.

Facing 4th and 20 from their 2, the Rams sent in their punter. He eyed the Hawks’ rookie returner. Personally, I like to picture Johnny “The Faker” Hekker smiling and thinking to himself that the youngster would be happy with a fair catch around Seattle’s 40 yard line.

Nope!

57 yards later, Lockett was in the end zone (<- - click for video).

Interestingly, that was the only punt-return touchdown Lockett had that season. And it remains the only one in his career. But it was still a heck of a first impression.

Lockett ended that first game with 153 all-purpose yards, including 4 catches on 4 targets for 34 yards, 2 kickoff returns for 56 yards, and 2 punt returns for 63 yards.

...

Week 3, 2015: Bears at Seahawks

Seattle held the Bears scoreless in the first half but only had a pair of field goals and a 6-0 lead as they headed to the locker room. After the break, Lockett lined up deep to take the second half kickoff.

105 yards later, Lockett was in the end zone (<- - click for video).

6 years later, that’s still a Seahawks record - and given recent rule changes, it’s a record that may last forever.

...

Week 14, 2015: Seahawks at Ravens

Fresh off a 7-of-7-for-90 performance in Minnesota, Lockett had the best receiving game of his rookie season, catching 6 passes on 7 targets for 104 yards (17.3 avg.) and 2 touchdowns.

...

Week 17, 2015: Cardinals at Seahawks

Lockett ended the season the same way he started it - by turning heads. In a wire-to-wire (36-6) victory over the division-leading Cardinals, Seattle’s rookie phenom fielded 4 punts and turned them into a team record 139 return yards; an average of 34.75 yards per punt.

...

Year-end accolades

Tyler Lockett was the only player from the 2015 draft to earn 1st-Team All-Pro honors his rookie year and earned a Pro Bowl invite as the NFC’s return specialist.

The Lockett Rocket was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month twice.

He set a number of team records in 2015, including:

  • Longest kickoff return, career: 105
  • Most kick return yards, rookie season: 1,231
  • Most kickoff return yards, rookie season: 852
  • Highest kickoff return average, rookie season (min. 25 attempts): 25.8
  • Most punt return yards, game: 139
  • Most all-purpose yards, rookie season: 1,915

And ...

Tyler Lockett’s 6 receiving touchdowns made him the second rookie in league history to have a kickoff return touchdown, a punt return touchdown, and at least 5 receiving touchdowns. The first, and only other one was Hall of Famer Gale Sayers 50 years earlier (in 1965).

Last, but not least ...

Among receivers with 50 or more targets in 2015, Lockett was #2 in the league with a QB passer rating of 133.5.

For what it’s worth, the picture below shows Tyler Lockett celebrating a touchdown with the wide receiver that finished the season at #1.

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Year 2

By most measures, 2016 was a somewhat disappointing year for Lockett.

Statistically, he took a small step backward:

  • Receiving: 41 of 66 for 597 (10 fewer catches; 3 fewer targets; 67 fewer yards)
  • Punt returns: 29 for 243 (11 fewer returns; 136 fewer yards)
  • Kickoff returns: 23 for 606 (10 fewer returns; 246 fewer yards; long of 46)

It isn’t the statistics that stand out about 2016 though. For me, it’s 2 plays. One very good play, and one that was, well, also very good - except for the really, REALLY bad ending.

...

Week 13, 2016: Panthers at Seahawks

Seattle got the ball first to start the second half, comfortably ahead by a score of 23-7 in a game they would end up winning 40-7. First and 10 from the Seattle 25.

Tyler Lockett went in motion and . . . buh-bye. (<- - click for video)

That remains the longest run of Lockett’s career - by a comfortable margin (#2 is a 22-yarder the following year). It also ended up being tied for the second-longest touchdown run in the league that season.

...

Warning: do not click the link in this one if you’re squeamish.

Week 16, 2016: Cardinals at Seahawks

With the Seahawks down 14-0 and a little over three minutes left in the first half, Wilson lofted a 28-yard pass to Lockett and of course Tyler Lockett made the catch. Unfortunately, Lockett also broke his leg on the play (both the tibia and the fibula).

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

That offseason was full of questions about how long Lockett would be out and what he would be like if/when he returned.


Year 3

The fact that Lockett returned from the broken leg and played all 16 games in 2017 is a serious testament to his determination.

Never mind that NoE ended the 2017 season with a career-low 555 receiving yards. That total was still good for #3 on the team (35 yards ahead of Jimmy Graham, on 12 fewer catches and 25 fewer targets).

Besides, Lockett had an NFL-leading 949 kickoff return yards, including a 99-yard touchdown return (<- - click for video).

Appropriately:

  • The KR-TD came in Week 17 in Seattle (Lockett was injured in the final home game the previous season);
  • The KR-TD came against the Cardinals (the same team Lockett broke his leg against);
  • Lockett received the ball in front of the south end zone (the one he was injured in); and
  • The KR-TD started on the 1-yard line (which is where the ball was placed after Lockett broke his leg)

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks swarm Tyler Lockett #16 after he made a 99 yard touchdown on a kickoff return in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals.
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Seattle finished the 2017 season with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs for the first time (and so far only time) in the Russell Wilson era. But Lockett’s kickoff return lifted our spirits and sent us into the offseason knowing that NoE was finally back to 100%.


Year 4

The 2018 season may one day be known as 1BDK - i.e. the year before Seattle drafted DK Metcalf. But it probably shouldn’t be.

Even if Metcalf one day breaks Calvin Johnson’s record for single-season receiving yards (1,964) and/or eventually tops Jerry Rice’s career mark of 22,895 receiving yards . . . I feel confident in saying that DK will never, ever, EVER do what Tyler Lockett did in 2018.

And, no, I’m not talking about the 3-year, $31.8M contract extension ($20M guaranteed) that Lockett signed just before the season started.

I’m talking about what Lockett did that no one else had ever done - or really even imagined was possible.

Here’s Lockett’s stat line from the 2018 season:

  • 57 receptions
  • 70 targets
  • 965 receiving yards
  • 10 touchdowns

Nothing special, right?

Among his peers, this is where those numbers ranked in 2018:

  • #57 in receptions (with 57)
  • Tied for #84 in targets (with 70)
  • #23 in yards (with 965)
  • Tied for #6 in TDs (with 10)

Granted, the receptions, the yards, and the touchdowns were all career highs at the time; but Lockett has had more receptions, more targets, and more yards each season since then - and he matched the 10 touchdowns last year.

So why did Pro Football Talk called Lockett’s 2018 season “one of the greatest wide receiver seasons in NFL history”?

Remember what I said about digging deeper with Lockett?

...

Per Football Outsiders, Lockett’s DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average) was 66.3% in 2018. That was impressive for 2 reasons:

One. Tyler Lockett’s DVOA in 2018 was higher than the #2 wideout (LAC’s Mike Williams, 39.2%) and the #3 wideout (TB’s Mike Evans, 25.2%) combined.

Two. Lockett’s DVOA was the highest DVOA for any WR in Football Outsiders’ HISTORY (dating back to 1986; min. 50 targets).

...

Perhaps you prefer Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) over DVOA since DYAR favors volume over average.

Now, intuitively, it would seem to work against Tyler Lockett that he only had 70 targets in 2018. Particularly when you consider that there were 28 receivers with 100+ targets that season, including Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, OBJ, and Tyreek Hill.

Nine of the 28 had more than twice as many targets as Lockett. One of those 9 receivers was DeAndre Hopkins. He had 163 targets in 2018 and his DYAR that year was 455.

Only one receiver had a higher DYAR in 2018.

Tyler Lockett.

464.

...

Head spinning yet?

How’s about a few more stats?

  • Lockett’s catch rate in 2018 was a career high 81.4%
  • NoE had ZERO drops the entire season - including the playoffs
  • His 16.9 yards per reception in 2018 was / still is his career high (by 2.3 yards)
  • Per Stathead.com, Lockett’s average yards per target (13.8) was the highest season total for a wideout since 1920 (min. 60 targets)
  • The Seattle Times nicknamed him “The Contact King” because he led the league in pass interference yardage

...

One last stat . . .

Russell Wilson’s passer rating when targeting Tyler Lockett was a perfect 158.3 that year.

I’ll let NFL Operations tell you how remarkable that is.

...

So what do you think? Was PFT correct when they said that Tyler Lockett had one of the greatest wide receiver seasons in NFL history?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Year 5

How do you top the season that Lockett had in 2018?

The short, instinctual, answer is, “You don’t.”

But . . . as was mentioned earlier . . . with Lockett, it pays to look a little deeper:

  • 2019 receptions: 82 - this represents a 43.9% increase over his previous career-high of 57
  • 2019 targets: 110 - Lockett’s previous career-high was 71, making this a 55% increase
  • 2019 receiving yards: 1,057 - Lockett’s first time over 1,000 yards; his previous career-high was 965 the previous year
  • 2019 first downs: 53 - a 32.5% increase over Lockett’s previous career-high (40)
  • 2019 passer rating when targeted: 125.9 - not perfect, but still exceptionally good; Lockett was #3 in the league among receivers with at least 50 targets

Lockett’s 2019 season was not without some drama though.

After downing a kick at the end of regulation in the Seahawks’ Week 10 matchup with the 9ers in Santa Clara, Tyler Lockett went to the locker room . . . and then he went to the hospital.

Initially, there was some concern that he might need surgery . . .

The good news, of course, is that Lockett was okay.

The issue that kept him in the hospital for a couple of days subsided and Jody Allen flew him back to Seattle on her plane - which he thought was both cool and dope.

I thought that was dope,” he said. “They didn’t have to do that at all. The fact that they did it, I thought that was really cool and really thoughtful. It shows how much they care about you as a person and how they truly want the best for you. That’s what I love about the organization. They’ve always taken care of me in every single thing that I’ve done.”

Because the Seahawks had their bye the following weekend, Lockett didn’t miss a single game.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On a side note, NoE’s health scare provided a rare glimpse into how much of a “family” the NFL is / can be - even among division rivals.


Year 6

Tyler Lockett considered opting out due to COVID concerns. With a heart abnormality and a history of asthma in his family, few would have blamed him.

Fast forward to the end of the season:

  • Zero health scares
  • A franchise-record 100 receptions
  • 1,054 receiving yards (a mere 3 yards below his 2019 career-high)
  • 10 touchdowns, including THIS ONE (<- - click for video)
  • QB passer rating of 119.6 when targeted
  • 75.8% catch rate.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Note: I am deliberately choosing not to spend a ton of time on Year 6 since we’re only a few months removed from the 2020 season and I’m pretty sure everyone here remembers how awesome Tyler Lockett was.

...

Click HERE for the tribute video that the team posted on Seahawks.com to commemorate Tyler Lockett’s franchise-record 100 receptions.


Conclusion

It is easier than some of us would like to admit to overlook a player like Tyler Lockett; to take his contributions to the team for granted; to not appreciate how absolutely stellar he has been since the Seahawks selected him with the 69th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

But, as opposing teams, Defensive Coordinators, and Special Teams coaches can attest, overlooking Tyler Lockett is a mistake.

Admittedly, it’s a mistake that I sometimes make myself.

Thankfully, John and Pete didn’t overlook him.

And not only did they not overlook him, they did what it took to get him in the 2015 draft, they have consistently set him up for success, and, with his most recent extension, Lockett is now tied to the team through 2025.

...

As the offseason drags on and the 2021 season approaches, I thought it would be nice to take some time to show a bit of appreciation for Tyler Lockett - a player who I believe could be on his way to one day joining Steve Largent (et al.) in the Seahawks Ring of Honor.