Fast Connections, Week 7: Wilson, Lockett dominating


In past weeks, Fast Connections has featured some of the NFL's newest quarterback-receiver connections. The Week 7 edition instead looks at some of the established stars who have dominated during the first half of the season.

Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

In 2018, the Seahawks began forming a new offensive identity. The team let go of longtime offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and brought in Brian Schottenheimer to run the offense. In the receiving corps, stalwart Doug Baldwin ceded ground to Tyler Lockett as Seattle's go-to weapon in the passing game. Despite some early growing pains, the unit rounded into form during the back half of the year.

This season, Wilson has become a bona fide MVP candidate, and his connection with Lockett has helped him get there. Wilson unsurprisingly targets Lockett more than any other receiver on the team. Not only do those throws produce receptions the overwhelming majority of the time (85.4 completion rate), but Lockett overachieves on his expected catch rate by 18.1 percentage points.

Next Gen Stats says ...

Last season, Wilson posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating on throws to Lockett, roughly 10 points higher than the next highest-rated QB-receiver connection with at least 25 targets. That connection remains potent in 2019, producing a rating of 137.2, sixth highest in the NFL.

Matt Ryan to Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

At 1-5 and facing back-to-back-to-back matchups against playoff teams from a year ago, the Falcons appear well on their way to another lost season. Barring an unlikely turnaround, Atlanta could see wholesale changes this offseason: a new head coach, perhaps some changes in the front office, maybe even a reboot of the roster.

But regardless of what the Falcons decide to do next year, they still have one of the NFL's best quarterback-receiver tandems around which to build. Matt Ryan has played his best football of the season over the past two games, accounting for 686 passing yards, eight total touchdowns and just one interception. Much of that production has gone through Julio Jones, the All-Pro wideout currently on pace for double-digit touchdowns for just the second time in his career. Though they haven't pushed Atlanta to victories lately, Ryan and Jones provide hope for the future.

Next Gen Stats says ...

No receiver on the Falcons draws press coverage more often than Jones (31.4 percent of his routes). Despite this, he creates at least 3 yards of separation on 30.2 percent of his targets. Jones also leads the team with 662 air yards, meaning Ryan looks for the All-Pro receiver down the field frequently despite the coverage.

Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

Only a few weeks ago, it seemed Stefon Diggs wanted a trade out of Minnesota. No deal materialized, but it didn't take much to understand the wideout's frustration. Through the Vikings' first five games, Diggs saw four or fewer targets three times, an underwhelming amount for a player of his caliber. With so few opportunities to touch the ball, Diggs unsurprisingly struggled to reach the end zone, scoring just one touchdown in a 21-16 loss to the Packers.

The drought finally ended last Sunday. Quarterback Kirk Cousins targeted Diggs 11 times, connected for seven receptions, 167 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. The Vikings blew out the Eagles 38-20, and Diggs once again looks like one of the NFL's premier wide receivers.

Next Gen Stats says ...

Perhaps because of the inconsistent usage, Cousins threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns when targeting Diggs through the first five weeks of the season, resulting in an 84.1 passer rating for the duo. The Eagles game boosted that figure to 112.4 for the season, a difference of more than 28.

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is a fantasy analyst for Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH