The Value of a WR3.

I recently saw a post where the commenter said "Without a dependable 3rd receiver or a Kelce like TE, teams figured out that locking down DK and Lockett crippled the offense."

I'm sure we've all heard similar statements made about the 2022 hawks before. But are those statements accurate?

Myth 1. Seattle didn't get much production out of their TEs in 2022

Any conversation about modern TE receiving production has to begin by acknowledging that Travis Kelce is simply an outlier. He led all NFL TEs last year with 1338 yards, more than 400 yards better than the player in second place.

We don't have Kelce. Nobody does but KC. What we do have is the third most productive TE group in the league. You may not realize that because the production is split between three players. But Fant/Dissly/Parkinson combine to form an elite pass catching unit. Between the three of them they managed 1157 yards (about 100 more than either Lockett or Metcalf), which is *I believe* good for 3rd in the league, trailing only KC and Baltimore.

If you're wondering how other superstar TEs did, here's ranks 2-5.

TJ Hockenson (914 Det/Min)
Mark Andrews (847 Bal)
Evan Engram (766 Jax)
George Kittle (765 Satan)

So the suggestion that our offense failed because we weren't producing at TE is clearly wrong.

Myth 2. Seattle Didn't have a dependable WR3

Something I very much did not realize until this offseason is how much people seem to over-value a WR3. So let's start by simply establishing a baseline. I don't have stats for wr3 as a position (perhaps a reader does?). So I went on Pro Football Reference and looked up the WR3 of a few of 2022's more productive passing offenses. Here's the results.

Josh Palmer LAC (769)*
Tyler Boyd Cin (762)*
Kj Osborn Min (650)
Elijah Moore NYJ (446)
Russel Gage TB (426)
Isaiah McKinzie BUF (423)
Trent Sheffield MIA (417)
Quez Watkins Phi (354)
Justin Watson (KC 315).

*Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missed 11 games between them. Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins missed 6.

So if you are a productive passing team in the modern NFL and your top 2 WRs are healthy all year, a productive and reliable WR3 will put up about 300 to 450 yards. Anything above 450 is a serious contender to lead the league, and anything below 300 is bad.

Marquise Goodwin SEA (387)

Myth 3. Jaxson Smith-Njigba is a huge upgrade over Marquise Goodwin at WR3.

Before you try and hit me over the internet let me try and make a bit of peace. I'm not saying JSN isn't a much better WR than Marquise Goodwin is. That's just silly talk. JSN is our succession plan for Tyler, and when that day comes he may even beat out Metcalf for WR1.

This is about the value of a WR3. Even a really good one.

I said when we drafted JSN that it may be the reckless optimism talking, but I was penciling him in for 600 yards in 2023 (assuming Tyler and DK don't get hurt). If you're not sure why that's reckless optimism, re-read myth 2. I'm essentially calling him one of the 2-3 best WR3s in the league before he's ever taken a snap.

Here's the thing though. That's only 12 yards a game better than what we got out of Goodwin. One catch. Less actually, since Goodwin averaged 14.3 per reception.

If you think JSN's going to threaten 1000 yards with a healthy DK and Tyler, I don't think we can have a rational conversation. But if you agree that 600 is in reach, do you really think that replacing Goodwin with a guy who catches 1 more ball per game is a huge upgrade? The sort that's going to fix systemic problems with our passing game?


Almost literally everything in the opening quote doesn't hold up to scrutiny. We had elite production out of the TE position last year. We had a WR3 who was right on par with what other guys in good passing offenses were producing. Heck, it's not even that our offense ground to a halt when teams managed to eliminate both Tyler and DK. It's when defenses began successfully taking away our TEs that we became much less dynamic.

If you're looking for what was wrong with our passing game last year, there's two things I would suggest merit further investigation. The first is how often did we see light-boxes. Were we able to punish these in any way, such as by throwing on them anyhow, or running between the tackles? The second is what sort of value did our RBs (Travis Homer excluded) provide in the passing game?

In other words, the rookie who most directly impacts our points of weakness from last season isn't JSN. It's Zach Charbonnet.