This article is part of our DFS NFL series.
We've reached Monday Night Football in Week 1. Hopefully, everyone's season-long and best ball leagues fared well as well as the main slate on Sunday. If not, just remember it's a long season. More important, there are some contests to play on the Showdown slate as we get Russell Wilson returning to Seattle after being traded this offseason. Although there's often weather risk in Seattle, that doesn't appear to be the case this time. Other general things to note include a low game total, which is between 44 and 44.5 points depending on the site. In addition, Denver is a fairly heavy road favorite at -6.5.
Russell Wilson ($17,000 FD, $11,800 DK) is the more talented of the quarterbacks in this game by a significant margin. He had a down season relative to his standards in 2021, but he still showed excellent efficiency, ranking well in marks such as yards per attempt, air yards per attempt and fantasy points per dropback. Instead, pace of play and passing volume are what held him back in his final season in Seattle. The hope — for those taking an optimistic tone — is that Wilson's move to Denver will help with the contextual factors while his efficiency remains high. Whether that actually occurs is less clear. New head coach Nathaniel Hackett comes from a Packers offense that finished last in pace of play last season. That doesn't mean he'll carry that philosophy to Denver, but it's worth questioning exactly how different Wilson's environment will look as compared to previous seasons.
Geno Smith ($14,000 FD, $8,600 DK) won the so-called quarterback competition in Seattle during training camp and preseason. He'll be a team's planned starter for the first time since 2014, though we do have a four-game sample of starts he made in 2021. Smith scored 10-12 fantasy points in three of those four games, and his 22.6-point performance came against the Jaguars. Rostering Smith would certainly be contrarian, but likely just for the sake of it. That doesn't accomplish much.
This could be the rare slate where you could get away with not rostering a quarterback if you aren't buying into a big performance from Wilson. In large-field tournament contests, that should be a good way to be different and also jam in a lot of the high-quality skill position players covered later.
Javonte Williams ($13,500 FD, $10,200 DK) is priced way up on both FanDuel and DraftKings, as he's the most expensive non-quarterback on FanDuel and second-highest priced player on DraftKings. His role remains questionable relative to that price, because we don't have a clear idea of the workload split between Williams and Melvin Gordon ($10,000 FD, $7,400 DK). According to the latest reports, Hackett is willing to ride the hot hand. If nothing else, Williams should have the better role as a pass catcher. Even so, given the disparity in price, I'd prefer to roster Gordon of the duo. Fantasy managers largely want Gordon to get out of the way so Williams can fully break out, but there isn't much to suggest Denver's coaching staff will operate like that at this point. We don't know the split between Williams and Gordon, but we can be confident the two will cover most of the work out of the backfield and keep Mike Boone ($6,000 FD, $200 DK) on the bench.
The Seahawks have less potential to score points, but their hierarchy in the backfield should be clearer. Rookie Kenneth Walker ($7,000 FD, $2,200 DK) looks unlikely to play after not practicing Friday. If he surprisingly suits up, he appears mispriced and is a strong — but probably chalky — option. Walker is a plus athlete and has the build to be a workhorse back, but he didn't show the ability to catch passes in college. If Walker is out as expected, Rashaad Penny ($12,500 FD, $7,800 DK) vaults to my favorite running back of the night. Penny led the league in rushing yards over expectation per attempt, was third in yards before contact and led the league in yards after contact. Those marks could fall due to the offensive context and the likelihood of Penny taking on a more workhorse-type role — at least while Walker is sidelined — but we know he has the skills to succeed. With Chris Carson out of the picture, the path is clearer for Penny to get consistent carries so long as he stays healthy. Travis Homer ($7,500 FD, $1,400 DK) will become a near lock on rosters if Walker is out. He's a more comfortable cash game play due to his projected popularity and the downside of the offense, but he would be the likeliest candidate to step into the No. 2 running-back role behind Penny. DeeJay Dallas ($8,000 FD, $400 DK) is a strong tournament pivot in case he has surpassed Homer on the depth chart, particularly as a punt play on DraftKings. Both Homer and Dallas are contingent on Walker being out.
Wide Receiver + Tight End
The fit between Courtland Sutton ($12,000 FD, $9,400 DK) and Russell Wilson seems natural. Sutton finished second in the league in targeted air yards per attempt in 2021, but he'll now upgrade from Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater to Wilson. That isn't a secret among DFS players, so expect a high roster rate if you're playing Sutton. Even so, I'd be happy to roster him regardless of contest type. Jerry Jeudy ($11,00 FD, $8,200 DK) is the second receiver in Denver. He's not limited solely to areas of the short field, but Sutton should have better odds of a 100-plus yard game and touchdowns. I'd prefer Sutton on both sites, but there's a stronger case for Jeudy the full PPR setup of DraftKings. KJ Hamler ($9,000 FD, $4,400 DK) is the discount version of Sutton and is a nice pivot. On DraftKings in particular, Wilson-Jeudy-Hamler is an attractive stack.
There's a chance to get a little different on FanDuel, and that's by utilizing the Seahawks' pass catchers. Geno Smith isn't a viable play on his own, but the target distribution should be narrow enough in Seattle that both DK Metcalf ($13,000 FD, $8,400 DK) and Tyler Lockett ($11,500 FD, $7,000 DK) remain in play. We saw this play out — more so with Metcalf — in 2021. In four games with Smith as the starter, Metcalf tallied five TDs and surpassed 50 yards twice. He recorded fewer than five receptions only once. That's a small sample, but if the narrative is that Metcalf can't produce because of Smith, take advantage. Lockett had far less inspiring production in that same span, but he saw 33 targets across the four games with Smith as starter, that opportunity just didn't translate to raw production. I'm not as inclined to play either Metcalf or Lockett on DraftKings, because Smith might not take to the air enough to make the PPR scoring system pay off, and I'd be less likely to expect either to reach the 100-yard bonus as compared to Sutton.
There's a pretty thin case to make for any receivers beyond the core five just mentioned. The one spot I'd be willing to at least look into a punt play is at Seattle's third receiver. Marquise Goodwin ($6,000 FD, $2,800 DK) and Dee Eskridge ($7,000 FD, $1,000 DK) are the likeliest candidates for the role. Both are potential big-play threats, though Goodwin missed most of training camp and the preseason, while Eskridge produced little in his rookie season last year. Given the expectation of the Seattle offense, I don't want to be too reliant on either. However, for high-volume entrants, those are players to whom to get exposure.
Albert Okwuegbunam ($8,000 FD, $5,000 DK) should have a clear path to the top tight-end role in Denver after the team dealt Noah Fant ($9,000 FD, $6,200 DK). Greg Dulcich is also on injured reserve, so Okwuegbunam should get as many snaps as he can handle. The number of targets he can command is a different question, while working behind Jeudy and Sutton. We don't have a real idea of how the offense will operate due to a new head coach and quarterback in the mix. Acknowledging that these things can change dramatically season over season, it is worth at least mentioning that the Seahawks allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends in 2021.
In contrast, Fant is most likely the third pass catcher in Seattle, but that's not particularly valuable with Smith as the quarterback. It's not a one-to-one comparison, but Gerald Everett saw only eight targets in three games with Smith last season, so I have a hard time justifying Fant over Okwuegbunam on paper unless it's specific to a strategic roster build.
In a fairly obvious statement, kickers are reliant upon their offenses to make them relevant. The natural choice is then to prefer Brandon McManus ($9,500 FD, $4,200 DK) over Jason Myers ($8,500 FD, $4,000 DK). McManus was also the more accurate kicker overall, converting 84 percent of his field-goal attempts as opposed Myers' 74 percent in 2021. McManus missed only one kick within 40 yards in 2021, but went just 5-for-9 from 50 or more yards. Meanwhile, Myers was inconsistent regardless of distance. McManus is a fine play, but there's not much reason to roster Myers.
Defense + Special Teams
I'm not particularly inclined to play either defense. At first glance, Denver ($9,500 FD, $4,800 DK) appears to be a nice option. It's reasonable to expect the Broncos to limit Seattle's scoring. However, this is where it's important to know the scoring rules. On both sites, as soon as the opposing team hits 14 points, defenses earn only 1 point. So, we should be looking for sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries and in the best-case scenario defensive or special teams touchdowns. We want opposing teams to throw a lot to get those events, and if Seattle is in the game at all they are much more likely to keep the ball on the ground. Meanwhile, the Seattle ($3,200 DK, $8,500 FD) defense was bottom 5 in both sack and interception rate in 2021. Things can change from year to year, but there's not much to suggest that the Seattle defense has significantly improved.