Emmanuel Sanders went from one NFC Super Bowl contender (after playing in the Super Bowl) to another last week, as he signed with the New Orleans Saints. What does his deal down in the bayou mean for the 49ers, the Saints, and 2020 fantasy football leagues?
Emmanuel Sanders’ Contract With New Orleans
Emmanuel Sanders and the New Orleans Saints agreed to a two-year pact. The deal is worth $16 million, though at the time of writing, the details have not been released. The 33-year-old showed he still has a lot in the tank last season, so I would guess the contract has somewhere in the range of $11 million guaranteed. A $7 million signing bonus, $4 million base salary in 2020, and $5 million in 2021.
Last year, Emmanuel Sanders played seventeen games between the Broncos and the 49ers. He put up 869 yards on 66 catches (97 targets), and scored five receiving touchdowns. He ended the year, despite his extra game, as WR35. Despite the 49ers having a reputation for not passing the ball, he paced out for nearly identical final lines with his time with both San Francisco and Denver.
Emmanuel Sanders With the Saints
For years, we’ve tried to convince ourselves that New Orleans’ WR2 was worth anything. We tried really hard to make Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith things in the wake of Brandin Cooks departing. Unfortunately, the #2 wide receiver in New Orleans averaged just 57 targets a season over the last three years. The passing offense funneled fully into Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and now, Jared Cook.
First, Emmanuel Sanders joining the Saints means that Michael Thomas isn’t getting 185 targets next year. He’ll still be the best and most efficient wide receiver in fantasy football, and I’m not getting spicy enough to move him from the fantasy football #1 WR slot. We can’t expect that volume load next year. Prognosticating a target dip for Michael Thomas isn’t exactly crazy. A wide receiver getting 180+ targets has happened 25 times in the 27 seasons that they’ve tracked the stat. Only Antonio Brown and Cris Carter did it in consecutive seasons.
I am not concerned with Jared Cook or Alvin Kamara’s target volume in light of Sanders’ addition. They all play vastly different roles in the offense. Dust off your Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith shares, though, as they’re headed to the waiver wire for the time being.
Now, Emmanuel Sanders has experience being a high-volume WR2 in a high-powered offense. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, he led all WR2s in targets as a member of the Denver Broncos. In 2013, he ranked fifth in the statistic. In those four years in high-powered passing attacks, Sanders averaged 134 targets for 82 catches, 1,095 yards, and seven touchdowns. I don’t believe he will get that volume, but he can do what Ginn and Smith do, but better. He’s a middling WR3 for fantasy football purposes, off the bat, with New Orleans.
Emmanuel Sanders Leaving the San Francisco 49ers
This can only mean good things for Deebo Samuel’s fantasy football value. The 49ers have such a strange and varied way that they get him the football while coverage is primarily concerned with George Kittle that I don’t worry about his targets. I understand that the 49ers trading DeForest Buckner for the #13 likely means that CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy are going to San Francisco if they are there, but Deebo is an already actualized force. That having been said, the 49ers need to restructure their offense around passing for Deebo to actualize his potential. There just aren’t enough targets to go around, and Kittle gets most of them. In Deebo’s two games without George Kittle, he averaged 10.5 targets per game. After those two games, he managed to surpass six targets once and averaged just 4.7 targets per game.
The rest of the 49ers’ passing game isn’t worth worrying about. Yes, even Trent Taylor.
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(Header Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Sanders#/media/File:Emmanuel_Sanders_2018.jpg, cropped under CC BY-SA 4.0)