In what is arguably the biggest trade in NFL history, Russell Wilson is now a Denver Bronco. Just days after Pete Carroll said the Seahawks would not be trading Wilson, the team shipped him off to Denver for a massive haul including Drew Lock, Noah Fant, and multiple first-round picks. This move sends shockwaves through the fantasy football world. How does Wilson’s arrival in Denver impact the fantasy values of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Javonte Williams?
Fantasy impact of Russell Wilson being traded to the Broncos
We can start with the obvious. Wilson is a massive upgrade over Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Wilson did not play well in 2021, averaging only 222.4 passing yards per game and throwing just 25 touchdowns in 14 games. However, I don’t think he’s done. I’m willing to chalk up his abysmal second half to just never really getting over his finger injury.
Wilson is still only 33 years old. He should have at least another five good seasons left. This is a massive move for the Broncos and one that significantly increases the fantasy values of everyone on the team.
Wilson’s impact on the fantasy values of Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy
Heading into the 2021 season, I was all-in on Sutton. He was one of “my guys.” For many other analysts, Jeudy was their guy. Unfortunately, we were all disappointed as the Broncos ran one of the most conservative, run-heavy offenses in the NFL.
For the past decade, Wilson has been shackled by the ineptitude of his head coach. The Broncos’ new head coach, Nathaniel Hackett, is the Packers’ former offensive coordinator. He worked with Aaron Rodgers for three years and knows the value of passing the ball. I’m extremely optimistic that Wilson may finally be able to have a 600-pass-attempt season. If Wilson is allowed to air it out, Sutton and Jeudy go from unstartable in fantasy to extremely sought-after assets.
Last season, Sutton and Jeudy averaged 8.7 and 8.5 PPR fantasy points per game, respectively. They both finished outside the top 60 wide receivers in ppg. With Wilson, both have WR1 upside.
It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but consider Sutton to be Wilson’s new DK Metcalf and Jeudy to be his new Tyler Lockett. I’m not saying Sutton’s value immediately catapults to Metcalf levels, but he should be viewed as a WR2 with elite WR1 upside. Yes, Sutton is that good. Jeudy is more dependent upon rapport with his QB and precision passing, which he should get from Wilson. He is also best viewed as a WR2, but his ceiling isn’t quite as high as Sutton’s.
Wilson’s impact on the fantasy value of Javonte Williams
Williams is going to be the Broncos’ lead back in 2022. He was already being discussed as a borderline first-round pick in 2022 redraft leagues when we thought Lock was the presumptive starter. A potential Melvin Gordon return will have more of an impact on Williams’ fantasy value, but this is an obvious benefit.
Williams’ overall expected volume goes down as the Broncos should pass more, but he is a very capable receiver. He caught 43 passes for 316 yards last season. Ultimately, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. What Williams may lose in volume, he will make up for in efficiency. Wilson’s presence should easily add 10+ touchdowns to the Broncos’ total tally. Williams will have more space to work with since teams can’t stack the box against him as easily, and he’ll have more scoring opportunities. He’s a redraft RB1 and a top-five dynasty running back.
Wilson’s impact on the fantasy value of Albert Okwuegbunam
For two consecutive years, I was hoping for a Fant breakout. Instead, we got back-to-back seasons of about 65 catches and 670 yards.
Wilson has always utilized his tight end. Seahawks’ tight ends just didn’t really have fantasy value because they weren’t that good and they used multiple guys.
With Fant now out of the picture, 2020 fourth-round pick Albert Okwuegbunam becomes Denver’s primary tight end. Okwuegbunam is extremely athletic and a surefire TE1 heading into 2022 redraft leagues.
We got to see him in a primary role during the lone week Fant missed last season. In that game, Albert O played 75% of the snaps and saw 5 targets. Last season, Fant averaged 9.9 PPR ppg with the Broncos. In a starting role, Okwuegbunam has the potential to reach around 80 catches, 850 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers would get him to about 12.5 ppg, which would’ve made him a top-five fantasy tight end in 2021.
Impact on the rest of the Broncos
We know Wilson can support several fantasy-relevant players. Sutton, Jeudy, Williams, and Okwuegbunam are the main guys, but it’s worth discussing who else might benefit.
The Broncos’ WR3 will likely be Tim Patrick since the team extended him last season. KJ Hamler is also in play. Heading into 2022, Patrick is a draftable WR4 in redraft leagues with WR3 upside. Hamler is a name to monitor in case he starts making waves in training camp.
We briefly touched on Gordon above. As of now, we don’t know whether the Broncos will bring him back. I imagine the arrival of Wilson will entice Gordon to return. Gordon has expressed a desire to be a lead back, which is not going to happen in Denver. Nevertheless, he could still be back as the 1B in what might be a 60-40 split with Williams.
Both backs had fantasy value in 2021 in an anemic offense. With Wilson, Gordon could be just as valuable in 2022, even with a 20-30% reduction in usage. We will have to wait and see his decision.