Forget about the Denver Broncos losing to the Houston Texans this preseason. The preseason is not meant for teams to shine but for the individual. In the case of Broncos players, that’s a tough task; they’re stocked full of talent. In the case of Emmanuel Sanders, the task is even taller because as a new face on the team, questions arose of how well he’d produce on a team that’s done well without his aid. All doubt was silenced Saturday night.
Sanders had sat out the first preseason game and was limited to just 20 snaps in the second matchup. Needless to say, he was anxious to return to the field for multiple quarters last night, and he posted numbers that look like totals he would have combined for in the past two games.
On five receptions, the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver totaled 128 yards, finding the end zone twice. He also led the team in targets over the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, who suffered a worrying concussion. Leading the team in targets is important, because the ranking of a player’s targets can be highly reflective of their ranking in fantasy points — the Broncos went 1-2-3 in targets and points respectively last season. Some people might also be worried that Peyton Manning‘s lone interception came off a long pass to Sanders, but I only think that misstep helps Manning’s new target’s case.
Sure, it’s not efficient to keep gunning passes to a certain player. But in fantasy, all that matters is the opportunity to get points. If Manning throws a pick — intended for any player — it doesn’t hurt the value of his target, only Manning’s value. What it does show is a level of trust that a seasoned QB like Manning is willing to give some riskier passes to Sanders. That’s what I’m happy about, and he’ll get more receptions because of that.
Sanders will also be seeing more balls thrown his way now that Welker may be out for some time. Taking Welker out the equation gives way for Sanders and the Thomas duo to be the primary trio rather than a quad-option for Manning. Of course, Cody Latimer will be of some threat to take away targets. But for the most part, the said trio will be Manning’s primary targets of choice. After last night, it seems that Manning’s found a replacement for Eric Decker (now with the New York Jets), who’s been a Top 15 WR option the past two seasons with the record-setting gunslinger.
Look for Sanders to replicate the success Manning’s had with his No. 2 wide receivers like Decker, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon in years past. The best thing is, Sanders is going at an underrated price tag of the 7th-8th rounds but is possibly worth a high fifth-round pick.