HomeSportsWhy veteran Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett studies Jets rookie WR Garrett Wilson

Why veteran Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett studies Jets rookie WR Garrett Wilson

It’s not easy for rookies to be competent amid calamity in the NFL. But that’s what Garrett Wilson was in 2022.

The New York Jets drafted the Ohio State receiver 10th overall last year, and he instantly took over games. Had he joined a functional offense that had a competent quarterback and solid ground game, Wilson’s production (83 catches, 1,103 yards, 4 TDs) might have drawn more attention. But the Jets receiver still managed to wow the NFL despite New York having the league’s worst group of QBs: Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco.

Garrett Wilson did a lot with a little. That’s how he drew the eye of veteran Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. In a conversation with Lockett earlier this month, I asked him whether he studies younger receivers — like the younger receivers study him. And he began to list his favorite young receivers to watch. He started with the obvious names: Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase.

The third name that he mentioned? Garrett Wilson.

“You can learn from anybody,” Lockett said. “You can see things that they do in their game, and you can try to figure out ways to intertwine into your game. You can watch how they do certain moves, how they set people up at the line, how they become a magician in the way that they run routes. And some of them might not work for you, but you just constantly try to find different releases and stuff that you like and see if you can emulate.”

What, in particular, did Lockett see from Wilson this year?

“Garrett Wilson’s game is real savvy,” he said. “I think he’s really elusive — when you watch the way that he gets off the line, you watch the way that he catches the ball. He’s able to catch the ball, make a move, and he’s able to take it to the house at any time.  

“Despite all the stuff that may have happened there, he was consistent when given opportunities. He performed at the highest levels. [He] won Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was able to break 1,000 yards. He has a really promising future ahead of him.”

Wilson finished the season as the No. 10 receiver on Pro Football Focus, a tremendous achievement for such a young player. Entering the draft, he was billed as a physical marvel who lacked seasoning. draft analyst Lance Zuerlein wrote that “Wilson’s game is lacking in polish” and that he is “very inefficient with routes over the first two levels.”

Wilson developed at a staggering pace in the NFL, making use of his speed — with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash — to attack different parts of the field. There is no doubt that he improved his route-running from college. But there was also clear carryover in terms of runs after the catch. The 6-foot, 192-pound Wilson was an absolute bull in the open field, with agility and power that made life difficult for opposing defensive backs. 

The problem was that his quarterback couldn’t always get him the ball. It was clear on the field and in the locker room that Wilson was frustrated with Zach Wilson and the Jets offense. So perhaps it was music to the receiver’s ears when coach Robert Saleh told reporters that the Jets intend to pursue veteran quarterbacks this offseason. They have already met with free-agent Derek Carr, per multiple reports. Whether New York lands him, Aaron Rodgers or another veteran QB, it’s sure to improve Wilson’s play. 

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During an exit interview with the media after Week 18, Wilson was asked whether he feels confident he’ll put up numbers no matter who’s playing quarterback.

“Yeah,” Wilson said on Jan. 9. “Put in an accurate ball, I’ll be able to make plays no matter who’s under center.”

He proved exactly that this past year.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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