Put Tyler Lockett on your list of 2019 fantasy sleepers

Fantasy Football, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett had a prolific 2018 season by some hidden measures, so he’s firmly on the radar as an early fantasy sleeper for 2019.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett set career-highs across the board this season, with 57 receptions for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns. That led to him finishing as WR16 in ESPN fantasy leagues (PPR scoring), as he had double-digit fantasy points 15 times in 17 weeks.

The Seahawks shifted back to a run-heavy offense this year, with the heaviest run-pass ratio in the NFL (534 rush attempts, 427 pass attempts). But Lockett’s below-the-surface proficiency should not be overlooked.

Russell Wilson targeted Lockett 70 times this season, completing 57 for the aforementioned yards and touchdowns. But Wilson also had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing to Lockett, which was unprecedented with anywhere near that kind of target volume going back quite a while.

Football Outsiders has a signature stat, DVOA, which measures player effectiveness on a play-by-play basis. Their data goes back to 1986, and Lockett had the highest DVOA of any wide receiver they’ve ever measured (minimum 50 targets).

Lockett averaged 13.79 yards per target this year as well. Pro Football Reference has target data going back to 1992, and Lockett’s yards per target was the highest for any wide receiver who was targeted more than 60 times in a season.

Lockett’s 81.4 percent catch rate (third-best among qualifying wide receivers this year) demands more than a 16.4 percent target share, even allowing for a low-volume pass offense. Doug Baldwin faded badly this year, aided by injuries, but he still led the Seahawks in targets (73) despite playing in three fewer games than Lockett. Looking to next year, based on production, Lockett is Seattle’s No. 1 wide receiver and the target distribution should reflect it.

As long as Seattle’s offense remains run-heavy next year, Lockett will need efficiency to reach his fantasy ceiling. There’s also virtually nowhere for Lockett to go but down in some advanced numbers next year, which will naturally bring predictions for regression in his surface numbers.

It’s easy to bet on Lockett getting a few more targets per game in 2019 though, and thus making a push toward 100-plus targets for the season.

This year’s WR10 in ESPN leagues (PPR scoring), Stefon Diggs, had 102 catches for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games. Fewer than 102 catches would be an automatic expectation for Lockett next year. But more yards, and being in the same range for touchdowns while playing all 16 games, would seem to be enough push Lockett into the conversation as a potential top-10 fantasy wide receiver for 2019.

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From the distant view of where average draft positions will sit in August, Lockett probably won’t be among the first 20 wide receivers drafted in most fantasy leagues.

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