Fourth-year Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett has drawn more defensive pass interference yards (182) than any player in the NFL this season. But is that just the result of increased opportunities, or is there an art to drawing fouls?
Tyler Lockett is the Contact King.
The Flag Aficionado. The Houdini of Hand-Fighting.
According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks’ fourth-year wide receiver — all 5-foot-10, 182 pounds of him — has drawn 182 defensive pass interference yards this season, 45 more than the NFL’s runner-up in that category — Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton.
Of course, he has also registered career-bests in catches (55), receiving yards (899), yards per reception (16.4) and touchdowns (9). He ranks second in the NFL with an 80 percent catch rate, behind only New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (86 percent). His six catches of 40 yards or more also sits second in the NFL.
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More often than not, he catches the football.
But if he doesn’t, he forces a flag.
“I put myself in position to be able to catch the ball, and if I can’t get to where I want to be at it’s probably because they’re grabbing me and stuff like that,” Lockett said, after spending extra time catching punts at the end of Thursday’s practice. “You’ve got to be able to show the ref. The ref’s looking at it, but sometimes they don’t see it because the DB is holding you, grabbing you and trying not to show them.
“But I try to put myself in positions where it’s easy to be able to see it if I’m not able to get both my hands up.”
Take last weekend’s playoff-clinching win over the Chiefs, for example. With less than two minutes left in the second quarter, quarterback Russell Wilson took a shotgun snap, turned to his right and released an arcing liner in the direction of a streaking Lockett.
Lockett — who was running step-for-step with Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward — attempted to extend his arms, felt a relatively microscopic amount of contact and dramatically dropped like he had unexpectedly lost control of his lower extremities.
Some might call that acting, or exaggerating, or flagrant flopping.
Lockett calls it “showing the ref.”
And he’s been able to show the ref more than ever this season.
“I’m getting more opportunities to go deep,” Lockett said. “With that being said, it’s just 1-on-1 and you go out there and make the play. I didn’t really get a lot of opportunities to go deep the previous seasons, and when I did it was just overthrown or underthrown, but I had the guy beat.”
In his first three seasons in the NFL, Lockett drew a grand total of two defensive pass interference penalties for 38 yards, all of which came during the 2016 season.
In 15 games so far this season, he has forced six flags for a whopping 182 yards.
“I think Russ (Wilson) has really gone to him more in down-the-field situations,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “That (penalty) usually happens downfield. Not always, but usually.
“I think his role in the offense has just expanded and it’s why he’s got all the touchdowns and all the big plays and all of that. That stat kind of falls in with it. He’s pretty cagey too. He’s pretty cagey about how he goes about his work and he’s doing a good job drawing fouls.”
He’s also doing a good job celebrating — and not just in the end zone. After victimizing Ward for the 15-yard foul, he stared down the undrafted rookie and solemnly shook his head, like a grizzled father who isn’t mad; he’s disappointed.
And why shouldn’t Lockett celebrate? Even when he doesn’t touch the football, the Seahawks’ 26-year-old receiver is finding ways to affect the game.
“You might not see it in the stats or people who play fantasy might not like it, but the football team loves it,” Lockett said of the pass interference penalties. “It’s just like a catch. It gets you down there to be able to make a field goal or a touchdown. People might not see it, but those are big plays that help during the game.”
In a pleasantly surprising 2018 season, Lockett has provided no shortage of big plays.
Many of those were catches.
But it might also be time to crown the Contact King.
“Tyler’s fast, so he’s a threat. Everybody is scared of his speed and his ability to get open,” said second-year Seahawks wide receiver David Moore. “So they try hug him a lot. Tyler’s great at attacking the ball at the end of the play.
“He’s Houdini, man. He gets those flags out.”