In an era of the NFL where yards after the catch reign supreme, with star ankle-breakers like Justin Jefferson, Deebo Samuel, and Cooper Kupp constantly putting on shows with their ability to turn screens and slants into scores, it’s weird to think about how successful someone like Tyler Lockett has been.
Arguably operating as Seattle’s No. 2 option in the passing game, Lockett is fifth among NFL wide receivers in average separation (3.6 yards), but has the 29th-worst yards after the catch per reception (3.6 yards; yes, it’s a coincidence). For perspective, every other receiver above Lockett in separation yards averages at least 5.5 yards after the catch per reception. In fact, only two receivers in the top-30 on the wideout separation leaderboards have recorded less YAC/R: Russell Gage and Isaiah McKenzie.
Of course, Gage and McKenzie aren’t nearly as talented or involved in their respective offenses as Lockett is. Despite his poor YAC/R, Lockett is in the Top 15 in the NFL in receptions, catch percentage, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Here’s the thing though, Lockett could be way better in every one of these categories, but for the sake of his health, he chooses not to.
Lockett has a knack for simply falling to the ground as soon as he makes most of his catches, rather than playing until he’s dragged to the ground. In fact, any pass to Lockett an intermediate distance from the line of scrimmage has a good chance of ending with Lockett giving himself up rather than getting tackled. Lockett has never been an elite YAC receiver. He’s also 30 years old and has struggled with injuries in the past, although he hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2016. The lengths he goes to avoid injury again though are fascinating, to the point where he’s pissed some people off.
This tendency really came to a head following Week 9, when Lockett had an opportunity for a first down, but instead fell short before he faced any contact.
Lockett even responded to this “fan,” stating the fact that players obviously don’t see the yellow line on the field. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Lockett’s constant decisions to give himself up before being tackled has likely cost the Seahawks several yards over the course of the entire season.
This TikTok account offers numerous examples of times Lockett slid to avoid contact this year.
Does it matter? Doesn’t seem so. Like I said, he’s been a top-tier receiver by almost every discernable metric this year. And even with his tendency to avoid contact, he’s still ahead of guys like Diontae Johnson, Mike Evans, Chris Olave, Adam Thielen, Courtland Sutton, and Amari Cooper in YAC/R this season, and the Seahawks are still Top 10 in the NFL in completion percentage, passing yards per game, yards per attempt, and passer rating. Clearly, Lockett “chickening out of contact” as some people might put it isn’t hurting Seattle as much as most oldheads would like to believe.
Lockett is a small guy (5’10”; 182) by NFL standards, with a lot to play for in the near future. If he’s going to set himself up for life, he needs to play as long as he can. This decision to avoid contact may not be the most macho according to some thick-brained meatheads who only want players who’ll always fight for every inch, but it’s probably what’s best for Lockett’s longevity. Based on the fact that he’s had three straight seasons of at least 8 touchdowns and 1,000 receiving yards, and he’s on pace for a fourth, he’ll likely be around for many years after 2022 still. Perhaps a few more players in Lockett’s shoes will follow in his footsteps and while that may lead to fewer Beast Quake-type runs, it could lead to several of our favorite players playing in the NFL much longer, and that’s a sacrifice I’ll make 100 out of 100 times.