Valuing Tyler Lockett in his New Role
In 2018, Tyler Lockett had the most PPR fantasy points of any wide receiver with 95 or fewer targets since targets started being tracked in 1992.
He had 70 targets.
Seattle cut Doug Baldwin last week, which leaves Lockett as the top wide receiver in a Russell Wilson-led offense. The Seahawks have the sixth-highest vacated target share and 10th-highest vacated air yards share, so Lockett is in position to see significantly more volume than last year. Fantasy owners have started to realize this, as his ADP has climbed a few spots since Baldwin was cut. Hype is a powerful thing, and I expect his ADP to climb even further as the season draws closer. FantasyPros consensus rankings since the Baldwin news have Lockett ranked as WR22 on average. His ADP currently sits at WR25 in DRAFT best ball leagues.
Lockett has obvious upside, but his efficiency is going to come crashing down next year. In 2018, he ranked third of 202 players with at least 30 targets in touchdown rate. 4for4 proved that there is very little correlation between touchdown rate in Year N and touchdown rate in Year N+1 for wide receivers, so it’s reasonable to expect Lockett to score less often next year.
There have been 25 wide receivers to score on at least 10% of their targets since 2011. Only one of those receivers improved his touchdown rate in the following season, and the average drop was seven percentage points.
Lockett would have been WR22 instead of WR14 if his touchdown rate was seven percentage points lower last season. He also had a higher catch rate than you would expect of a player in his role. Of the 119 wide receivers who saw at least 30 targets last year, Lockett ranked 24th in aDOT at 13.6. He’s a blazer with 4.4 speed and a career yards per reception average of 14.3, so that makes sense. Here’s what doesn’t make sense: His catch rate ranked third in that same group.
Lockett’s catch rate was above league average at every depth last year. He's an above-average talent with a great quarterback throwing him the ball, but catching 81.4% of targets with an aDOT of 13.6 is unsustainable.
Lockett also averaged 13.8 yards per target, best among wide receivers with at least 30 targets by more than a yard (Robert Foster was second at 12.3). Unfortunately for Lockett, yards per target is one of the least-stable stats for wide receivers, so that’s another number that will likely plummet in 2019.
Thankfully, Lockett can offset impending regression with an increase in volume. He doesn’t have to be as efficient to return value at his ADP because he will almost certainly get more targets. Baldwin recorded a target share of either 21% or 22% in every year between 2014 and 2017. Lockett has a good chance to get to that level next year because the Seahawks don’t have any other proven receiving options.
D.K. Metcalf and David Moore are expected to start alongside Lockett in 2019; Metcalf is a third-round rookie and Moore is a former seventh-round pick with 26 career catches. Wilson has ranked above league average in Player Profiler’s Supporting Cast Efficiency metric in each of the last two seasons (the Player Profiler website only goes back two years) so Lockett will be the top dog for one of the NFL’s most fantasy-friendly quarterbacks next year.
While Wilson boosts his counterparts, the offense far from fantasy-friendly, at least for wide receivers. The Seahawks had the fewest pass attempts in the league last year (and fewest of any team since 2013), and they are likely to stay near the bottom with Brian Schottenheimer at offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer-coached teams have never finished higher than 13th in total pass attempts with an average finish of 22.4.
In addition to leaning on the run, the Seahawks also play at a pretty slow pace. Since Pete Carroll became head coach in 2010, the Seahawks have never ranked higher than 16th in plays per game with an average finish of 21.6. Basically, they play at a slow pace and run a lot, which is the exact opposite of what you want for a wide receiver.
I’m fine with Lockett at his current WR25 ADP, but I expect his ADP to rise over the next few months as people realize his upside as the lead option in Seattle’s passing game. Because of that, I don’t expect to own much Lockett in 2019.