Kickoff: Monday, September 12th at 8:15 PM ET
Location: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Betting Odds: DEN -6.5, 44.5 total via Oddsshark
Russell Wilson (Start, QB1)
The REAL reason for the split between the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson may never be fully known, but the fact remains Wilson is an elite talent at the QB position and a bonafide QB1 for fantasy managers. Wilson is going to a team in Denver with comparable weapons to what he had in Seattle but with a better offensive line and a head coach who understands the direction NFL offenses are headed in. Gone are the days of dominant defenses covering for offensive inefficiencies as the teams at the top of the mountain have innovative offensive minds running things and elite QB play paired with weapons at WR and RB. Wilson is almost assuredly going to run an offense that will generate numbers that exceed what he was able to do in Seattle and might propel him into MVP consideration if the Broncos can ascend much like the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Tom Brady. Seattle is a struggling franchise and Wilson might be extra motivated to show the franchise what they traded away, making him an easy start this week.
Javonte Williams (Start, RB2), Melvin Gordon (Sit)
Is the future now for the Broncos at the RB position? Veteran Melvin Gordon seems to think so.
I think they have a plan on what they want heading in, but as far as the rotation goes, I really don’t know. I think they want ‘Vonte’ (RB Javonte Williams) to be the guy, but we do rotate. He’ll take the first series and then the second series with the [No. 1 offense], I’ll take. Sometimes we switch, but you know kind of how it is. I don’t know how they will do the rotation.
Williams was a heralded prospect coming into the 2021 NFL Draft and the Broncos snatched him early in the second round at pick #35. Williams responded with 1,219 combined yards and seven TDs in a near 50/50 split with Gordon. The expectation is for Williams to see an uptick in opportunities at Gordon’s expense and the arrival of Wilson should open up the offense even more. Expect a heavy dose of the running game to close out the game as Denver is nearly a TD favorite and Williams figures to be an integral part of the offense both rushing and receiving. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Denver and the passing attack is almost assuredly going to be more of a weapon than last season, which when combined with Gordon still being present caps Williams’ upside. Look for Williams to provide RB2 production with RB1 upside against an overmatched Seattle defense.
Despite being just 29 years old, Gordon feels like an aging veteran watching the young buck take away his job. In reality, Gordon should still see a decent part of the RB pie but probably a lesser role than he had last season. Many are projecting something along a 65/35 split in favor of Williams, which makes Gordon a risky start in Week 1. Perhaps all the rumors and speculation have diminished Gordon more than the team is intending and he and Williams will continue to both be low-end starting options in the RB2/RB3 range, but I’m not willing to take that chance in Week 1. Sit Gordon unless injuries have depleted your bench and you need him as an emergency FLEX option.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Courtland Sutton (Start, WR2), Jerry Jeudy (Start, WR3/FLEX), K.J. Hamler (Sit), Albert Okwuegbunam (Sit, possible low-end TE1)
Reports out of Broncos’ camp have all sounded very similar – Courtland Sutton is the WR Wilson trusts the most right now and looks to when a play needs to be made. Sutton was able to post respectable numbers with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock last season (58-776-2) and the season-ending injury to Tim Patrick along with the departure of Noah Fant opens up 175 targets that will have to go somewhere. The Broncos probably won’t have to rely too heavily on the passing game this week to come away with a victory and that keeps Sutton out of the WR1 conversation but he should see enough targets to settle in nicely as a WR2 with upside to kick off the Monday night season.
Sutton’s running mate for the last two seasons returns on the outside in the form of Jerry Jeudy and fantasy managers who drafted Jeudy are hoping he can live up to the hype he had coming out of Alabama. The change to Wilson at QB along with Patrick’s injury and Fant’s absence should provide Jeudy with numbers reminiscent of his 2020 season (113 targets/average of seven per game) as opposed to the five targets per game he saw in his injury-shortened season last year. Jeudy was known for his route-running coming out of Alabama, and Wilson mentioned that when asked about his expectations for Jeudy this year.
He’s going to have a really amazing year. He’s so confident right now. He’s playing his best football that I’ve seen. He’s really sharp. He understands every concept, what we’re trying to do, how to get there. Every route is just perfect.
The ceiling is sky-high for Jeudy but he needs to show it on the field before we can commit to anointing him an every-week starter. I like Jeudy to finish comfortably as a WR3 this week and does provide some FLEX appeal for fantasy managers in Week 1.
K.J. Hamler is looking to step into the “Tyler Lockett role” for Denver after Patrick’s season-ending injury – a phrase all too well ingrained into the minds of fantasy managers who have rostered Hamler in the past. Hamler missed three games during his rookie season with various injuries and was able to compete in just three games last season after suffering a torn ACL and a hip injury which both required surgery. Hamler retook the field for the first time just over a month ago and has all the tools to make an impact much as Lockett did with Wilson in Seattle. Similar to Jeudy, however, we need to see it on the field before we can confidently say Hamler is any sort of startable option. Keep Hamler on your bench this week and see how he is utilized in the offense, and if he looks like the same player pre-injury. At worst, he’s a bench stash with upside that you can cut if injuries hit your roster.
With his primary competition for targets last season on the opposite sideline this week, Albert Okwuegbunam stands alone as the primary TE for the Broncos. Okwuegbunam is a big, athletic TE but played deep into the team’s second preseason game (much longer than other starters) because, according to HC Nathaniel Hackett, he needed more reps.
There are guys that some have played a little more football than others, but Albert’s [Okwuegbunam] a guy who needs some reps. It was great to see him miss that first one and then come back and catch the next one because that’s what he does. He vertically stretches down the field.
Okwuegbunam didn’t need extra time in Denver’s third preseason game, which is encouraging, but it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets if he struggles with the blocking aspect of the game. Okwuegbunam probably slots in as the fourth option in the passing game capping his upside, and I think he finishes just outside the TE1 tier this week. If it looks like he’s going to be an integral part of the passing offense, however, he does have TE1 upside in this offense.
Geno Smith (Sit), Drew Lock (Sit)
It could be argued that Seattle has the worst QB room in the NFL and I don’t know of many people who could argue otherwise. After a decade with Russell Wilson, Seattle is now turning the reins over to some iteration of Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Smith wasn’t terrible in relief of Wilson last year, passing for 702 yards and five TDs with just one INT in his four games along with adding 42 yards and a TD on the ground, but he hasn’t been an NFL starter since 2014 for a reason and that reason (or reasons) will come to light sooner rather than later.
As for Lock, he couldn’t beat out Teddy Bridgewater last season and has shown inefficiencies in his decision-making with a career TD: INT ratio of 25:20. Lock was part of the package Denver gladly sent to Seattle in exchange for Wilson, but it was new place same ending for Lock as he couldn’t separate from Smith during the preseason.
Denver’s defense will have no trouble exploiting Seattle’s porous offensive line and making life difficult for Smith this week. I can’t even recommend Smith as an option in 2 QB leagues.
Rashaad Penny (Sit, possible FLEX), Ken Walker III (Sit), Travis Homer (Sit)
After years of tantalizing fantasy managers with untapped potential, Rashaad Penny may finally see regular consideration for fantasy managers. Chris Carson was forced to retire as a result of a neck injury suffered last season and Penny is now the unquestioned #1 RB for the Seahawks. Penny closed out the 2021 campaign on a tear with four games of 135+ rushing yards and six TDs over the final six games after taking over for Carson. Penny has a lengthy injury history as well, including missed games last season, so the fear of missed time is a valid concern. Unfortunately for Penny, Seattle will see a dropoff at the QB position and the offensive line is still a concern that dampens his outlook. I’d take a wait-and-see approach with Penny this week but can see a scenario where he provides FLEX value in larger leagues.
The Seahawks saw a lack of depth at the RB position following Carson’s retirement, so they remedied that with the 41st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft with Kenneth Walker III out of Michigan State. Walker has been out of action for the last several weeks, however, after suffering a hernia injury that required surgery to repair. As of this writing, Walker hasn’t been ruled out of participating in Monday night’s game but most experts think he’ll be sidelined until next week. Even if Walker plays, it is reasonable to assume he’ll have a snap count and might not be at 100% yet. As such, I’d pass on Walker this week even if he is announced as playing.
The third RB to keep an eye on for Seattle is Travis Homer. Homer has been with the Seahawks for three seasons but has been unable to see the field consistently despite flashing ability in the receiving game as well as being a standout on special teams. Homer will likely serve as Seattle’s third-down and primary receiving back if Walker is out this week but might retain that role as the season progresses. Penny’s injury history and Walker’s current injury situation make Homer an intriguing player to monitor given his speed and knowledge of Seattle’s offense. Homer is not an appealing option this week but keep him on your radar if injuries continue to strike the RB room in Seattle.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
D.K. Metcalf (Start, WR3/FLEX), Tyler Lockett (Sit, possible low-end FLEX), Noah Fant (Sit)
There is no denying the skills of D.K. Metcalf as he has established himself as one of the best WRs in the NFL with 3,170 yards and 29 TDs on 219 receptions through three seasons. Metcalf was able to produce last season with Geno Smith (19-295-5) which might make fantasy managers feel a bit better about starting Metcalf but Metcalf was INCREDIBLY efficient in those games catching 74% of his targets (well above his season average of 58%) and a TD on 25% of his receptions (16% season average). Metcalf is still a matchup nightmare and should see enough volume to be worth starting, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish outside the top 24 WRs in Week 1 and that’s why I’d recommend only starting him as your WR3 or FLEX.
For as good as Metcalf was with Smith, Tyler Lockett was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Lockett saw plenty of opportunities with Smith (33 targets) but could only manage 21 receptions for 246 yards and zero TDs. The volume is good for fantasy managers but the results are mediocre to bad and the expectation for Week 1 looks like more of the same. With the state of Seattle’s offensive line and a very good Denver secondary, it’s hard to see a path for Lockett to return much more value than that of a FLEX option but I’d advise a total avoid if possible.
Noah Fant was a regular contributor for his former team but now he’ll be going up against Denver’s defense instead of cheering them on from the sidelines. Part of the deal that brought Wilson to Denver, Fant goes from an offense that used the TE regularly to an offense that has struggled to produce a fantasy-viable TE for several years. Fant might get more looks if Smith finds himself under duress for much of the contest but also might be asked to block more for the same reason. It’s unknown how the Seahawks will utilize Fant, but he has shown he can provide starter-quality production when given the chance. Will he get those chances in Seattle? Until we get some data to more accurately answer that question, Fant can’t be recommended for your starting lineups this week.