How Problematic Is the Seattle Seahawks' Quarterback Situation for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Fantasy Football?
In recent seasons, the pertinent questions surrounding Seattle Seahawks wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been less about if we should want them on our teams and more about nitpicky things like who we should prefer at their fantasy football draft costs and how much a run-heavy offense will cap their ceilings.
In 2022, the situation is much different.
After the Seahawks parted ways with franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, the quarterback room is now headlined by Geno Smith, Drew Lock, and Jacob Eason with Smith the presumptive leader until we hear otherwise.
What is that going to look like for two fantasy football darlings?
Russell Wilson vs. Geno Smith vs. Drew Lock
At numberFire, we rely on a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP), which is our expected points model. It rewards plays that are above expectation and penalizes those that are below expected.
Here is how Wilson, Smith, and Lock have fared in their seasons with at least 100 drop backs in both Passing NEP per drop back and passing success rate (the percentage of drop backs that increased their team's expected scoring) -- compared to that season's average.
Numbers above the NFL average are shaded in green.
Okay, so look, I get it. Nobody came here to find out if Russell Wilson was more efficient than either Smith or Lock, but it's important that we look at just how good Wilson was and how good Smith and Lock have been so that we can adjust our expectations accordingly.
Before I move on, here's a look at their career passing numbers.
For context, the NFL average Passing NEP per drop back in 2021 was 0.11, and the average passing success rate was 47.1%.
Naturally, as we'd expect, Lock and Smith are well below those numbers, and Wilson -- on a per-play basis -- bests the typical output (yet has a success rate closer to par given his playstyle.
What This Drop Means
There is a tangible impact on fantasy football production based on team-level efficiency. Specifically for receivers, nearly half of all top-12 fantasy seasons since 2012 came from teams that ranked in the top-eight in Adjusted Passing NEP per play. If efficiency was irrelevant, we'd expect that number to be closer to 25% (as 25% of teams would sit inside the top eight).
Though volume matters, too, wide receivers are really sensitive to efficiency. Just 7.5% of top-12 seasons came from bottom-eight adjusted passing offenses, and only 19.3% of WR2 seasons (i.e. WR13 to WR24) came from bottom-eight units.
We also see adjusted sack rate play a pretty big part in wide receiver production with more than two-thirds of top-12 campaigns tied to teams in the top half of the stat. Now seems like a good time to mention that the Seahawks enter 2022 with ProFootballFocus' 32nd-ranked offensive line.
If we presume a ceiling of a below-average passing offense and a legitimate chance that these quarterbacks flirt with bottom-eight efficiency, then league-altering output from either Lockett or Metcalf seems like a huge outlier bet even if we try to sell ourselves on heavy volume on a bad team.
But Wait, We Already Saw Geno Smith Starting for Seattle
We sure did. The 2021 season gave us three starts (Weeks 6, 7, and 8) from Smith while Wilson was out.
In that stretch, Metcalf was the WR8 overall and the WR15 in half-PPR points per game. So what's all this worry about upside?
Well, boosting Metcalf's production was a touchdown per game, on average, with a line of 6.0 targets, 4.7 catches, 65.7 yards, and 54.2 air yards per game.
His catch rate over expectation in this split was +18.3%, and while Metcalf absolutely has the physical talent to dominate and overperform, consistently cashing in on 6.0 targets per game (a 25.0% target share, no less) is a tall order to overcome. Results matter, but predicting outlier efficiency is silly.
That overall inefficiency from Smith got the better of Lockett, who was the WR28 overall and the WR47 on a per-game basis in this three-week stretch.
However, Lockett had a better target share (31.9% -- 7.7 targets per game) than Metcalf did and caught 5.3 passes per game (with a catch rate over expectation of +4.6%) in this split. He just didn't score in this sample. His air yards share (45.3%) was also better than Metcalf's.
The usage suggests Lockett shouldn't be forgotten about just because Metcalf scored heavily in this split.
In looking at all passes from Smith (he did play 40.0% of the team's snaps in Week 5), we see Lockett lead in target share (30.7% to 23.9%) and air yards share (45.4% to 29.9%).
Make no mistake: these two still stand in line to vie for a combined 50.0% target share within this offense. Those targets just are going to have a lot less juice behind them.
Within an offense that was reluctant to let Russell Wilson air it out, we're also, then, dealing with a questionable target total despite good market shares (and -- if you can believe this -- passing volume does have an impact on fantasy output for receivers).
In past seasons, we simply had to wonder if there'd be enough volume of hyper-efficient targets for Lockett and Metcalf. Now, we have to worry about both efficiency and volume.
That's not to say that these two are undraftable, however.
WR2 seasons are still in the cards, given their individual talent and claim to elite target shares. Just be careful not to overextend because the problems they face seem quite problematic.
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett Fantasy Football Projections for 2022
Via FanDuel's best-ball average draft position (ADP), Metcalf is the WR21 for the 2022 season, and Lockett is being drafted, on average, as the WR39.
numberFire's fantasy football projections are still quite high on this duo. Metcalf is the WR17 in half-PPR formats and is projected for a full-season stat line of 143 targets, 86 catches, 1,108 yards, and 6.6 touchdowns. Lockett is viewed as the WR25 with a projected line of 81 catches, 121 targets, 1,023 yards, and 5.5 touchdowns.
Projectable volume makes them stand out from other options in the mid-range.
Based on the production with Smith, Metcalf would be the ideal target. Based on the workload, however, we should probably just prefer Lockett if those are the going rates in drafts to acquire their fantasy football production.
Personally, I can't see myself reaching for Metcalf over others in his ADP range with better offensive situations, but Lockett still has room to beat a WR39 ADP.