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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Seattle Seahawks

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Michael Dolan

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Seattle Seahawks.

 

Below, Michael Dolan and Daniel Kelley tackle the Seahawks, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Seattle Seahawks

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

DolanGeno Smith
Kelley: Tyler Lockett

Biggest Bust

DolanKenneth Walker
Kelley: Geno Smith

Bold Prediction

DolanJaxon Smith-Njigba Leads the Team in Catches
Kelley: Zach Charbonnet is not a top-40 RB

The Explanations

Sleepers

Dolan: Geno Smith

Believe it or not, Geno Smith finished last year as the overall QB5. After years of serving as an NFL backup, his strong 2022 performance was a Cinderella story that left Seahawks fans excited for year two. Entering 2023, Smith not only has another year of comfort with the offense, but the Seahawks also just spent a first-round pick on a receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, which will only make life easier for Smith moving forward.

In all likelihood, Smith isn’t going to finish as a top-five QB again this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a great value for fantasy drafters. He’s currently being drafted as a mid-tier QB2, and he has the upside to once again finish as a rock-solid QB1. If you’re a fan of the late-round QB approach when drafting, Smith makes for a perfect target.

Kelley: Tyler Lockett

Tyler Lockett Seattle Seahawks 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions

Doug Baldwin was a star in 2017, finishing as the PPR WR13 in his third straight 100-target season. He played in 2018 but wasn’t close to the same, opening the door for another Seahawk receiver to pop — a door Tyler Lockett kicked down and has refused to let anyone replace since. Lockett has put up over 1,000 scrimmage yards and scored at least 8 touchdowns each of the last five seasons, never finishing below WR16 in PPR. Despite that, his positional ADP has never climbed above WR17. In games he and DK Metcalf both played over the last two years, Lockett has had a better points-per-game average and (significantly) more top-five finishes. You’ll let me know when I get to something that explain why Metcalf’s 2023 ADP is WR15 while Lockett’s is WR30. 

The arrival of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a pure slot receiver, could lower Lockett’s floor and ceiling a bit, but he’s run more than half of routes from the slot each of the last two years and still been WR16 and WR13. Maybe Lockett’s days of pushing for a WR1 finish are behind him, but it’s easy to picture him finishing as a WR2 for the sixth straight year, and he’s not being drafted as such.

 

Busts

Dolan: Kenneth Walker

Despite Kenneth Walker showing some serious juice during his 2022 rookie campaign, the Seahawks opted to spend a second-round pick on another running back this year. While I think the Zach Charbonnet pick will be good for the Seahawks’ offense, it likely spells trouble for both Charbonnet and Walker’s fantasy outlook – Walker in particular. 

Walker was explosive last year, but he was inconsistent and didn’t offer much in the two areas that are most appealing to fantasy players – goal-line work and pass catching. Walker saw just 35 targets last year, and it’s hard to envision that number going up with the additions of Charbonnet and Smith-Njigba. Then you throw in the fact that he ranked second in the league in red zone rushing attempts (48) and scored just 9 touchdowns, and there’s a strong argument for Seattle to shift those touches over to Charbonnet in the hopes of more efficiency in that area of the field. At his current cost, getting a solid return on investment with Walker would mean he basically needs to be Nick Chubb-level efficient. While he may be talented enough to reach that ceiling, drafting him with that expectation is a risky proposition.

Kelley: Geno Smith

Geno Smith Seattle Seahawks 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions

Straight off the top, Geno Smith’s regression is already built into his ADP this year. He finishes 2022 as the QB5 in fantasy but is currently going off the board as QB15. So based on cost to acquire Smith, he’s unlikely to be a significant bust. But I still want to poor some cold water on Smith’s 2022 and what it might mean for his 2023.

So Geno Smith was QB5 last year. He did that with 314.9 fantasy points. That would have been QB10 in 2021, QB12 in 2020. He wouldn’t have been QB5 with that point total in any of the last five years. Smith had only two top-three weekly finishes (fewer than Russell Wilson and Daniel Jones) and four top-five finishes (the same as Jared Goff and Tua Tagovailoa). In other words, Smith’s biggest virtue in 2022 was a high floor, with 10 top-12 weekly finishes. And sure, if you have a high-variance alternative (say, Anthony Richardson), maybe Smith makes sense as the safe second quarterback. But man, the goal of drafting the upside/safe combo at quarterback is that you never really have to rely on the safe one, that he’s only there unless your first pick crashes and burns. And I’m not particularly interested in spending the QB15 pick on a guy I’m only using if my first choice doesn’t work out.

 

Bold Predictions

Dolan: Jaxon Smith-Njigba Leads the Team in Catches

Jaxon Smith-Njigba falling to pick 20 was one of the surprises of the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has the talent to step in and make an immediate impact on this offense. The narrative that he’ll be buried behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the pecking order seems silly to me. This is a guy who outproduced both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave when they shared the field together at Ohio State, and his skillset should allow him to thrive alongside the talented receivers in Seattle as well. In fact, he may actually be their perfect complement.

Both Metcalf and Lockett are best utilized down the field, while Smith-Njigba’s style of play caters better to the short and intermediate areas. He’s the perfect candidate to operate out of the slot and be the “move the sticks” guy for Geno Smith. While he may not accumulate the most fantasy points, I think Smith-Njigba will catch the most balls and be a consistent, high-floor fantasy producer right out of the gates.

Kelley: Zach Charbonnet Is Not a Top-40 RB

A year ago, the Seahawks had incumbent Rashaad Penny, an excellent ball-carrier who had struggled staying healthy and didn’t offer much as a pass-catcher. They spent a second-round pick on Kenneth Walker, who had better all-around skills, to be the handcuff/No. 2.

A few months ago, the Seahawks had incumbent Kenneth Walker, an excellent ball-carrier who had a few injury issues as a rookie and didn’t do much as a pass-catcher. They spent a second-round pick on Zach Charbonnet, who is much more of a receiver, to be the handcuff/No. 2.

Those aren’t the same stories, but they rhyme. And it’s tempting to look at Walker’s successful rookie season in Seattle as at least a template for Charbonnet’s — an RB15 finish, 1,215 scrimmage yards. Maybe less rushing, but more receiving to offset that. And that is indeed a nice story, but to totally buy into it you have to forget how Walker’s rookie season started. Penny only had one great game last season, with 151 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 2, but even with relative struggles in Weeks 1-3, the backfield was Penny’s, and Penny’s almost alone. Penny played 155 snaps through Weeks 4, with 49 carries and 5 targets. During that time, Walker played 46 snaps (including a Week 1 inactive) with 15 carries and 7 targets. He had fewer fantasy points than Latavius Murray, who had only played one game and was about to be jettisoned from his team.

The Seahawks like options in their backfield. They don’t want to get into another situation where they are picking up Tony Jones off waivers and potentially starting him, which came up last year. Charbonnet helps with that. But they have never really put forward a committee backfield. If Walker stays healthy, Charbonnet will be a nice roster handcuff, but he won’t sniff your fantasy lineup.

 
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