Why Ricardo Lockette Could Be the Next Big Thing with the San Francisco 49ers
It won't be easy for the reigning NFC champions to replace Crabtree, a emerging star wideout who caught 43 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns from Kaepernick in the final seven and a half regular-season games in 2012.
But Lockette has a "deep-rooted friendship with Kaepernick," according the Albany Herald. That off-field chemistry could go a long way in creating on-field chemistry in 2013.
The former Division II 200-meter national champion was quoted in the same article saying the following:
It’s almost like you go somewhere and you realize someone is your cousin, and since we met we have been inseparable. The first time we met was at the NFL Combine, and I was like, ‘Man, you can throw.’ Then he was like, ‘Man, you are fast.' When I texted him last year and told him I was on my way to San Fran, he got really excited. When we saw each other we had this big hug like we grew up with each other.
Per the Albany Herald report, the two live together in San Francisco and trained together in Atlanta this offseason.
With a vacancy in the 49ers receiving contingent, Lockette has a golden opportunity to materialize as an important contributor to Kaepernick's efficient offense.
But first, let's get to know Kap's best bud.
Who is Ricardo Lockette?
Lockette measured in at 6'2'' and 211 pounds at the 2011 NFL combine. In Indianapolis that February weekend, he ran a scintillating 4.37 40-yard dash and had a 35.5-inch vertical leap.
Relatively unknown coming out of Division II's Fort Valley State, Lockette went undrafted but signed with the Seattle Seahawks. He has two career grabs—a 44-yard reception and 61-yard touchdown.
Despite his two big plays, Pete Carroll's club cut him before the start of 2012 season, and the San Francisco 49ers signed him a few weeks later on September 24.
He was a member of Jim Harbaugh's practice squad but never saw the field.
What does he bring to the field?
Here's what NFL.com listed as Lockette's strengths before the 2011 draft:
Lockette is big with long arms. Finds soft spots in zone coverage and possesses strong hands and the body control to make grabs away from his frame. Good leaper that high points the ball well. Flashes a bit of a wiggle in the open field and is a strong runner after the catch.
And his weaknesses:
Does not show explosion off the line or out of his breaks. Will not consistently stretch the field at the next level. Extremely raw route runner that is too high in transition and lacks the ability to set up defenders with head fakes. Will not always find the ball in the air.
Lockette was perceived to be relatively raw entering the NFL but possessed enough speed and athleticism to stick as a developmental player.
On paper, he's the fastest wideout on San Francisco's roster, barely beating out 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, who clocked a 4.39 in the 40 at his combine.
While the Kaepernick-led attack didn't appear to feature many vertical components a season ago, the rocket-armed quarterback's yards-per-attempt average as the starter was 8.3, which would have led the league if he threw enough passes to qualify.
How he could fit into role of replacing Michael Crabtree
Clearly, there's room for a downfield, stretch-the-defense threat within offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system.
In theory, Randy Moss could have been that guy in 2013, but the elderly receiver hasn't been re-signed by the 49ers this offseason.
Will Ricardo Lockette play a key role in SF this season?
In all likelihood, Lockette won't necessarily replace Crabtree—the player who was looking more and more like a true No. 1 receiver in 2012, someone who runs crisp routes and excels catching passes at all levels of the field.
However, the former undrafted free agent could morph into the ideal vertical weapon to suit Kaepernick's huge arm, which would be a perfect complementary element to the traditional, power running game that often draws extra defenders close to the line of scrimmage.
There's a somewhat concerning amount of unestablished pass-catchers in the San Francisco wideout grouping, but that means there are opportunities galore for perimeter guys to be featured in Roman's wildly successful scheme.
With unadulterated speed, desired size and a close bond with Kaepernick—the latter, at the very least, being an interesting fact that certainly won't hurt his chances—Ricardo Lockette could be the next big thing with the San Francisco 49ers.
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