Tyler Lockett's wide receiving abilities have been doubted his entire life. Growing up in the shadows of his father and uncle, many believed he would never be able to live up to his family legacy.
Tyler's father, Kevin Lockett, and his uncle, Aaron Lockett, are both former Kansas State legends that went on to play in the NFL. Kevin played in the NFL for six years -- spending time with the Chiefs, Redskins, Giants, and Jets. On the other hand, Aaron Lockett spent only two years in the NFL, with the Bucs and the Niners, as a kick returner. Without finding much success in the NFL, Aaron then went on to play in the CFL through the end of his football career. Despite their professional success, Tyler's elders were very well known for their time at Kansas State.
Those are some lofty expectations for a young man to live up to. Coming out of high school, Tyler's size and strength led recruiters to doubt his potential future as a wide receiver. Entering college, Tyler was ranked as the 170th best wide receiver, and 115th best corner in his national class.
That's right -- he was actually ranked higher as a cornerback.
As we all know, Lockett balled out in college, and currently holds the Kansas State record for receiving yards in a single game, career receiving yards, career receptions, career touchdown receptions, and career kickoff return yards. Tyler Lockett entered Kansas State's doors as a hopeful prodigy and left a legend.
Fast forward to April 30th, 2015. The NFL Draft.
For the most part, Tyler was criminally overlooked on Draft Day. Scouts loved his speed, his route running abilities, his double moves, and his overall football intelligence. On the other hand, they heavily criticized his small build. They believed his height, strength, and weight cancelled out any positives and would diminish any potential he had. The official NFL comparison for Tyler Lockett was Minnesota receiver Jarius Wright.
Round one of the 2015 NFL draft had passed. No mention of Tyler Lockett. Round two passes -- still no mention. Then came round three, pick 69. The Washington Redskins were on the clock. Lockett had a selection projection in the 3rd of 4th round and teams were starting to look his way. Many Seattle fans were hoping the Seahawks would select Jaelen Strong, the large wide receiver out of Arizona - or draft an offensive lineman (I know I was).
However, the Seahawks had their eyes on Lockett - and they wanted him, badly. Suddenly, a trade was announced. The Washington Redskins had made a deal with the Seattle Seahawks. John Schneider & company were about to make a power play - a move up of 36 draft spots. In exchange for Seattle's 2015 third, fourth, fifth, and sixth round selections, the Seahawks were given the Redskins' 3rd round pick (69th overall pick). The Seattle Seahawks would select Tyler Lockett with that pick.
Before the Seahawks selected Lockett, nine other receivers had been taken off the board. Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Devin Smith, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Devin Funchess were all selected before Tyler Lockett. One of those receivers had a better 2015 season than Tyler Lockett. One of them -- if that.
Due to his size, Lockett was undervalued and under-appreciated. However, the Seahawks looked past that. Seattle believed he was more than his size. Seattle believed he was worth three draft picks. Seattle believed he could be a dynamic playmaker. That belief paid off.
In Seattle's first game of the regular season, Lockett immediately demonstrated his multi-dimensional abilities -- both as a receiver and as a punt/kick returner.
Game after game, Lockett started to find his groove. He became more comfortable returning kicks, separating himself from receivers, and catching passes from Russell Wilson. Each game, Lockett always seemed to make another impressive play. The rookie was starting to get the hang of it. He quickly developed himself into a dangerous playmaker -- one that other teams were forced to respect and game plan around.
Despite his fast start as a kick and punt returner, Lockett had a slow start to his wide receiver career. Through Seattle's first six games, Lockett had only 12 catches for 128 yards and 0 touchdowns. This was not out of the ordinary for a rookie receiver and posed no concerns. Then came Lockett's breakout game week 7 against the 49ers.
Against the Niners, Lockett caught all of his targets for 79 yards and one touchdown. It was clear that Lockett was developing rapidly into a dangerous threat at the wide receiver position. Defenses were being forced to adjust and game plan for him. Defenses were starting to fear him. Defenses were starting to know his name. His unique ability to beat coverage deep and slice defenders with his feet caused nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.
From week 7 on, Tyler Lockett dominated.
Since Week 7, Tyler Lockett is second in the entire NFL in all-purpose yards behind Antonio Brown.— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) January 7, 2016
Russell and Lockett started to develop a unique connection. The Seahawks had found their receiver, the receiver they had hoped would develop a career-long relationship with Russell Wilson.
As a rookie, Lockett's 80% catch rate was one of the best in the NFL. Additionally, Lockett set a rookie franchise record of 1,915 all-purpose yards - shattering Curt Warner's old record. Lockett ended his season with 51 catches for 664 yards and six touchdowns (all mostly done in the 2nd half of the season). On top of that - per Kenneth Arthur, "Tyler Lockett is the only rookie in NFL history with 600 rec yards, 6 rec TD, 500 kickoff return yards, and 300 punt return yards". Lockett was also named to first team All-Pro as a kick returner.
The sky is the limit for Lockett. He demonstrated the skills and abilities of a veteran wide receiver in his rookie year. As a rookie, he is light-years ahead of where many superstar receivers were so early in their careers -- including a player that some have used as a Lockett comparison -- Antonio Brown. This is incredibly encouraging considering the fact that Lockett and Antonio Brown share many of the same physical and athletic traits as wide receivers. Most notably, Lockett's route running abilities provide the most promise for his future as a superstar NFL receiver.