Tyler Lockett Being Overhyped? (2019 Fantasy Football)
What’s the word you’d use to describe a player who outperformed everything history told us would happen given his opportunity? Outlier. That’s the word I’d use to describe that scenario. That’s also the word I’d use to describe Tyler Lockett‘s 2018 season.
You know what’s similar to him to every other outlier in history? People seem to think he can repeat it. This profile is going to go in depth as the potential he has, but let me be clear; he won’t repeat it.
For a wide receiver to have true breakout potential, he must get targets, and that’s something Lockett hasn’t done throughout his career. In fact, his 71 targets in 2018 was the exact same total he received in 2017. Crazy, right? The only difference is that after his 71-target season in 2017, his average draft position was as the WR52.
Here’s a fun fact: There were 15 wide receivers who saw at least 120 targets in 2018. 14 of the 15 receivers finished as top-16 options, while Jarvis Landry finished 19th. That’s a far cry from the 71 targets Lockett saw. The only other wide receiver who finished top-16 without 120 targets was Brandin Cooks, who had 117 targets. The correlation between targets and fantasy finish for wide receivers is second to none.
“But Mike, Doug Baldwin is gone! That’s freed up a lot of targets.” While that’s true, here’s an eye-opening stat regarding Lockett’s 2018 season. There were four games in which Baldwin was out the entire game or missed three-plus quarters. In those games, Lockett totaled just 23 targets, or 5.8 targets per game. Over the course of a full 16-game season, that would’ve amounted to 92 targets, not quite the 120-target pace we’re looking for. Here’s a stat that I’m sure you’ll double check to ensure I’m not lying, but it’s true. Tyler Lockett games with more than six targets: One. David Moore games with more than six targets: Two.
EFFICIENCY CAN’T KEEP UP
We’ve seen Tyreek Hill break efficiency since he came into the league, but the same cannot be said for Lockett. He was pretty average through his first three years of his career, totaling 137 receptions for 1,816 yards and nine touchdowns on 206 targets. Applying those averages to his 71-target season in 2018, he would’ve totaled 47 receptions for 627 yards and three touchdowns. That would’ve been right in-between Michael Crabtree and Anthony Miller as the WR56.
In a recent article I posted on Which Wide Receviers Were Better/Worse Than Expected in 2018?, Lockett popped off the page, scoring 83.9 more fantasy points than the average wide receiver would’ve with the exact same targets. In 2017, Lockett’s number was 3.9 points lower than the average wide receiver. I’m not saying Lockett can’t improve efficiency and score more than the average player does, but elite players typically wind-up in the 20-40 points over expected range.
Touchdowns were everything to his production last year. Here’s some wide receivers who had more 100-yard games than Lockett in 2018: Tre’Quan Smith, Taylor Gabriel, Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, Kenny Stills, John Brown, and Robert Foster. Here’s a list of the players who scored more than seven touchdowns while having one or less 100-yard games: Tyler Lockett, Mike Williams, and Eric Ebron.
The Seahawks decided to turn back the clock in 2018, running the ball more than any team has in a long time. They averaged 32.8 rushing attempts per game, which ranks as the 11th highest total over the last 10 years. When you have Russell Wilson, this seems pretty absurd, but that’s been the case for most of his career. Wilson hasn’t ever thrown the ball more than 553 times in a season and has been under 485 attempts in 5-of-7 seasons. His 427 attempts in 2018 was the third-lowest mark of his career.
In order for Lockett to get to that 120-target mark we’re shooting for, he’d have to see a 28 percent target share in the offense, a number that just six players hit in 2018. Those players were DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham. Do you see Lockett getting anywhere close to that territory? He’s 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, which is not a size that’s typically built to withstand the hits a possession receiver takes.
DEFENSE TRENDING IN WRONG DIRECTION
If there’s a bit of hope for Lockett’s volume, it’s that the Seahawks defense has lost countless players and will likely look like a new unit in 2019. It seems like Pete Carroll always gets the best out of his unit, but expecting them to take a step back is reasonable. In the 37 games the Seahawks have lost with Wilson, he’s averaged 32.7 pass attempts, which is much higher than his average of 27.4 pass attempts in the games they’ve won. Unfortunately, it hasn’t led to more yards or touchdowns. Here’s the splits in the wins and losses.
Wilson clearly plays better when they’re leading, even if it does lead to less pass attempts. I’ll agree with the argument that the Seahawks defense will allow for more pass attempts, but we can’t say that it’s a truly great thing based on the above chart.
There are reasons to envision a bigger role for Lockett in the 2019 season, but the stars would have to align in a way that’s extremely unlikely for him to finish as a top-15 fantasy wide receiver. While he’s not being drafted as a top-15 receiver, you’re looking for equity that isn’t really there when drafting him as the WR21 off the board (his current average draft position).
Lockett can remain an efficient player but expecting his efficiency to remain anywhere close to where it was in 2018 would be a mistake. If he returned to average efficiency on his targets (where he’d been throughout his first three years), he’d need an additional 57 targets to have the same finish he did last year (WR15), which is something we’ve shut down based on the Seahawks’ lack of volume. If you’re able to land Lockett as your WR3, that’s the ideal scenario, as you’ll hope the stars align for WR2 production. I’d rather take the targets from both Allen Robinson and Alshon Jeffery, who can be had almost two full rounds later.