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Fantasy fallout: Russell Wilson’s trade to the Broncos

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers announced he was staying with the Packers and Russell Wilson burst out of the trade gates like he was trying to set a new world record in the Olympic downhill. After what can now accurately be termed years of saying they would not be dealing Wilson, the Seahawks have sent their franchise player to Denver for a pair of firsts, a pair of seconds, Drew Lock, Noah Fant, a fifth-round pick, and for some reason, defensive tackle Shelby Harris. The Seahawks are also kicking in a fourth. The return is being debated on Twitter, but it is probably fair for a 33-year-old who has taken a ton of hits and was not particularly great over the past 1.5 seasons.

The past 1.5 seasons, of course, is when Wilson was at war with the Seahawks, dropping his normally stoic, unflappable demeanor in favor of a “trade me now” brood. The destination is where all franchise quarterbacks are rumored to end up, the land of John Elway and Peyton Manning. If the return is debatable for Seattle, it’s a clear home run for the Broncos. Although they are now picks depleted, they are plugging Wilson into an offense that had everything but a quarterback.

Wilson has had some great supporting casts in Seattle. With DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett previously at his disposal, it’s not a guarantee this Broncos group is better. But the upside exists for this to be Wilson’s best-ever skill corps. At worst, it is the 80 percent version of his Seattle group. Courtland Sutton is a proven sideline dominator, one with DeAndre Hopkins-style body control. He just has not been able to show it the past two years because of injury and Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy doesn’t pull the trigger on deep balls or tight sideline passes. That is Wilson’s forte. Whereas Sutton was previously having trouble cracking the top 36 in the initial 2022 rankings, he is now a clear-cut WR2. He is a safer bet than Amari Cooper or Michael Thomas, for instance.

If Sutton is taking over as Wilson’s new Metcalf, Jeudy is obviously the Lockett, a versatile player who can both lock down the slot and make big plays down the field. As was the case with Sutton, injury and awful quarterback play prevented Jeudy from showing off those skills in 2021, but he put it all on film as a rookie, and he did it with Drew Lock to boot. It is now fair to vault Jeudy into the Terry McLaurin low-end WR2 mix, with the upside for much, much more. Wilson has supported two WR2s, and sometimes two WR1s, for years now. Jeudy could ascend as high as the Diontae Johnson/Keenan Allen WR1/2 borderline range.

It is important to know that even though the locale and coaching staff are changing for Wilson, the ultimate approach might not be. That could be frustrating at first, both for a quarterback and fantasy players who have pined for more Wilson attempts. To let the man cook. But Nathaniel Hackett arrives from a Packers team and coaching staff that extolled the virtues of balance and efficiency over the past three seasons. Wilson’s attempts are not about to skyrocket. It is going to be the classic pass smarter, not harder. Wilson already made a QB1 living as an efficiency man. Rodgers is the very avatar of efficiency-based QB1 value in fantasy. Wilson may not ascend all the way back to those heights, but he will be right on Rodgers’ heels. Seahawks Wilson was struggling to crack the QB1 mix in early 2022 rankings. A meaningful increase in production could not be assumed in good faith. That is no longer the case in Denver, and Wilson deserves to rejoin the top eight, at the very worst the top 10. He has both the efficiency track record and the assumed offensive approach from his new coach to make it happen.

Elsewhere down the line the takeaways were more mixed. After struggling for TE1 relevance and to hold off his fourth-round backup Albert Okwuegbunam for targets in Denver, Noah Fant arrives on a team with no quarterback and two alpha receivers. One of Metcalf and Lockett seems likely to be traded, but there is no guarantee Fant’s triggerman will be any better than Bridgewater or Lock. The Seahawks could be entering into total teardown mode. In this information vacuum, Fant is a potential Dynasty league steal if a panicked manager sells him for pennies on the dollar, but there is a real chance trading Fant for whatever you can get is the correct play. As for Okwuegbunam, Wilson has never hesitated to target the seam. Okwuegbunam’s injury history is undeniably concerning, but a TE1 finish is squarely in the range of potential, if not likely, outcomes. Albert O is still a month shy of his 24th birthday.

Metcalf and Lockett are in holding patterns. A trade is possible for either — both? — between now and the draft. If you are afraid they won’t be dealt and will remain stuck in Seattle with a suboptimal signal caller, 29-year-old Lockett is the priority sell while the fog of war still hangs. With Metcalf, you can afford to take a longer view. Even if his 2022 setup is poor, the man is still only 24 with plenty of dominance on NFL film.

In the backfields, the RB1 light could scarcely get any greener for Javonte Williams before Wilson’s arrival. Now he’s on an open highway with an 80-MPH speed limit … provided the Broncos don’t make any additions in the draft or free agency. Hackett comes from a team that had major success with the 1A/1B approach. Wilson has also never been the most frequent checkdown man when it comes to runners.

In Seattle, the odds that Rashaad Penny returns have now greatly increased. Pete Carroll is getting his wish of a run-based offense, and Chris Carson’s (neck) future remains clear as mud. A team that saw fit to use a first-round pick on Penny when running back wasn’t a need probably isn’t going to bail now. It is difficult to envision any other club placing greater value on the 2018 first-rounder.

To put a bow on it: Rodgers’ Packers return didn’t change much. Wilson’s Seahawks departure upends two entire franchises. The night is dark and full of terrors in Seattle … unless you make your living off Dynasty league uncertainty. In Denver, the arrows are only pointed upward. Sutton and Jeudy are back where they belong, Williams has his RB1 runway, and Albert O is primed to go from cult classic to mainstream hit. Wilson is a game-changer in real life and fantasy.

Don’t forget, for the latest on everything NFL, check out NBC Sports EDGE’s Player News, or follow @NBCSEdgeFB or @RotoPat on Twitter.