When the Seahawks, a team known for moving back in the draft to accumulate picks, traded away four picks in order to take Tyler Lockett early in the third round of this year's draft, it was clear they were very high on the speedy receiver from Kansas State.
On Friday, Lockett wasted little time in showing why the Seahawks were willing to give up so much to acquire him. Lockett's first return left a little to be desired, with him getting the ball only to the 13-yard line after bringing it out from two yards deep in the end zone. But the next time he brought the ball out of the end zone, Lockett returned it 46 yards to Denver's 43-yard line.
It was a big moment for the rookie, but as it turned out, he was just getting warmed up. Early in the second quarter, with Seattle's offense struggling to move the ball, Lockett became the kind of instant spark that the Seahawks used to get out of Leon Washington, returning a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. At first, it didn't look like Lockett had much room on his fourth return of the day, but he bounced the return outside towards the left sideline—what at first looked like a "that might work in college, but not in the NFL, kid" type of decision—but Lockett turned on the jets, turned the corner and outran the Broncos coverage team.
"On the big kickoff, lots of times guys make that break and they start to turn the corner and they get run down at the 30 yard line," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He finished it; that's 4.3 (speed), it showed up. A lot of fast guys trying to get him, and he turned the corner. It didn't look like he had a great angle, and then I didn't see the rest."
Carroll didn't see the rest because he was on the ground, having been run over by field judge Eugene Hall, but Carroll did see enough of that return to feel pretty good about his team's third-round pick.
"He looked like we had hoped he would look," Carroll said. "We drafted him with the thought that might give us a real spark in an area we wanted to see if we could find a way to improve and be more dynamic. He did that. He'll tell you he just missed the cut on the first one or he'd have had a big play there too."
For Lockett, only one thing went through his mind as he raced toward the north end zone.
"Just don't get caught," he said. "I think that was the biggest thing. I run not to get caught, and a lot of people will probably talk about you if you were to get caught. Just put yourself in the best situation as possible."
Lockett is competing to be both the kick and punt returner, and he helped his cause in both, though he only had one punt return, an 18-yarder on which he showed good change-of-direction. B.J. Daniels was also solid in the return game, but Lockett looks like he is going to make it difficult to overtake him for either job.
"I want to be able to be good not just at one, but at both," he said. "I want to be able to master it."