To the casual football fan, the Denver Broncos signing wideout Emmanuel Sanders is an average move that doesn’t really draw a ton of buzz.
However, to the fantasy football fan, it means the world.
After watching Eric Decker join the Jets, Denver went out and signed Sanders, who fill slide into the wide receiver three role for the Broncos. The move obviously allows Sanders to see an uptick in production and fantasy value, despite going from the number two receiver in Pittsburgh to the number three in Denver. In 2013, Manning had a rare season, setting the record for passing touchdowns in a season, so, as a result, everyone in the passing game obviously benefited. Decker and Demaryius Thomas both eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards, but a better number is four, as in the number of players to catch at least 10 touchdowns from Manning last year. That includes Wes Welker, who’s role will now be filled by Sanders, as Welker moves to the number two role. Is Sanders going to automatically obtain those numbers in his first year in Denver? Who knows? But it’s evident this is good for his value.
According to Pro Football Focus, Welker, who was the number three option last year, was still on the field 89 percent of the time in 2013. The Broncos use three or four wide receiver sets so often that it isn’t a concern at all that Sanders won’t be a number two option anymore. In Pittsburgh last year, Sanders caught 67 balls for 740 yards and six touchdowns. That was in a Steelers offense that was in the middle of the pack in passing volume, averaging 36.6 pass attempts per game, the 15th-most in basketball. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger tossed a respectable 28 touchdowns, meaning Sanders hauled in 21 percent of those touchdowns. I think we can all agree that Manning isn’t throwing 55 touchdowns again, but he should still toss upwards to 45. Imagine if Sanders is accountable for 21 percent of touchdown passes in a Peyton Manning offense?
Look, there is still plenty of speculation going on here, as we aren’t exactly sure what Denver’s offense is going to look like in 2014. Having said that, it’s important not to reach for Sanders, a relatively unproven guy. However, taking him as a WR3 would be very, very solid, and in deeper leagues, potentially a low-end WR2 with massive upside.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.