Why Tyler Lockett Will Be King

Not exactly earth shattering news is the fact that the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 were extremely poor when returning kicks and punts. The team ranked 17th overall in kick returns last season with an average of 21.0, and punt returners averaged 7.0 yards per return, which ranked 25th. No return resulted in a touchdown. In fact, the last regular season Seahawks kickoff return that went for a touchdown was from Leon Washington in 2012. The team struggled to find someone who could do either return kicks or punts starting in last year’s OTAs, giving opportunities to Angry Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas, among others. Percy Harvin was supposed to fix the kick return issues, of course, after being traded from the Minnesota Vikings before the 2013 season. Except for a handful of eventful kick returns, including the one he returned for a touchdown to start the second half of the 2014 Super Bowl, Harvin was either hurt or unmotivated or, most times, both. Harvin is no longer with the team. Golden Tate did a good job returning punts for Seattle in his seasons there, but he left via free agency before last year. The Seahawks are to be blamed for not being more prepared in one of the three phases of football last season, however the team focused on drafting someone this year who might change that phase quickly.

The Seahawks decided that change would happen in the form of the player they chose in the third round: Kansas State’s Wide Receiver/Kick Returner Tyler Lockett. The Seahawks like Lockett so much that they gave up four later-round picks to the Redskins in order to get him. The question is should the Seahawks fans like Lockett as much? The answer to that is definitely yes. Lockett is incredibly skilled as both a kick returner and punt returner. In his career at Kansas State (again, not last season, but his four year collegiate career), he averaged 28.5 yards a kickoff return and a bit over 15 yards per punt return. He has an instinctive ability to see the field and elude oncoming tacklers that is unmatched over the last four years of college football. The only criticism of him from NFL scouts when it comes to returning kicks is they wonder if he might get more easily injured because of his size. One difference for Lockett versus other rookie receivers, however, is that his father played in the NFL and has versed his son well in route trees and the return game. Also, while Lockett has a slight build, he stands 5’11”. He is not tall, but he is tall enough. Lockett will take more time to grow as a receiver than he will as a kick returner, however. While he does run precise routes, he will have to adjust to the speed of NFL cornerbacks and also to learn what to do when Russell Wilson has to break down a play, as unfortunately happens more often than Seahawks fans like due to inept offensive line production. The important thing with Lockett, however, is what he does best and that he can do that even as a rookie: return kicks. Lockett will put the Seahawks in better field position more consistently than they ever could last year. As Lockett says, “All I look for is an opportunity to put the offense on the other side of the field – put it in their territory instead of our territory. What I learned at Kansas State makes a huge difference – the momentum can swing real fast in our favor and that’s what I love about returning.” And that is one reason Seahawks fans will love Lockett.

We know, however, that the Seahawks are a run-first team and that the team’s receivers have to learn to block well or they do not play. Can Lockett do this? This is what NFL.com’s draft profile said of Lockett when listing his strengths: “Likes to block.” And also, “Scouts say his personal character and football character are top-notch.” If Lockett meets rookie expectations, he helps with the passing game some, but totally elevates the kicking game while going about it the right way. This is a player who should become a fan favorite and make the team better. The Seahawks made a wise choice.