Will Mohamed Sanu give the Cincinnati Bengals much needed firepower at the wide receiver position in 2013? With only four days remaining before the draft, plenty of fans and draft pundits think it may be a good idea for Cincinnati to draft a wide receiver early to complement A.J. Green. This may not be a wise decision.
Last season, Sanu showed his versatility and production before an untimely injury suffered at practice shelved him for the remainder of the season. With the Bengals passing attack in a slump, Sanu was a breath of fresh air for this stagnant offense.
Not only did Sanu play well while checked in the game, but he made the rest of the offense better as well.
During this span, Sanu caught 11 passes for 98 yards and four touchdowns (via ESPN.com). These may not seem like overly impressive stats, but Sanu served a huge purpose in that span—he made quarterback Andy Dalton better.
Dalton did not have a quarterback rating of over 100 since the Bengals' Week 3 contest against the Washington Redskins. Throughout the three weeks that he was targeting Sanu often, he recorded passer ratings of 127.6, 109.8, and 109.0 (via ESPN.com).
Quite possibly a more telling statistic is what Dalton did after Sanu was injured. His passer rating dropped the next week against the San Diego Chargers to a mere 66.9. Dalton did not improve thereafter.
Sanu also allowed the Bengals' top receiver Green to find more space in the offense. Over this three-game span, Green recorded 16 receptions for 287 yards and two touchdowns (via ESPN.com).
Due to Sanu's versatility, he creates mismatches all over the field. He has lined up in the X, Y and Z positions at wide receiver (both the outside and the slot) as well as lining up in the backfield.
While he was featured in the Bengals' offensive system, they utilized him in all of these roles each week.
Let's take a look at two huge variations of Sanu's skill set during his performance against the Raiders.
First, Sanu shows his ability as a ball-carrier out of the backfield. He lines up in the backfield on a third-and-four.
He receives the exchange from Dalton on an off-tackle run to the left. The Raiders immediately bottle up the play.
Sanu keeps his eyes upfield and sees a cutback lane open up.
He then turns upfield while keeping his legs driving forward to gain a crucial five yards and a first down.
Next, Sanu shows his ability to be a very reliable red-zone target. He lines up on the outside with man coverage and no safety help.
He uses his great upper-body strength to separate from the cornerback while keeping his legs moving.
This allows him for enough separation to get open outside. He extends with his long arms to haul in a pass that was placed nicely in the corner of the end zone.
Sanu then secures the ball with his strong hands and keep himself in bounds for the score.
With Sanu bringing this much versatility to the Bengals' offense, it seems that taking a wide receiver early in the 2013 NFL draft would be a head-scratching move.
A healthy Sanu who already knows the nuances of this offense and has clearly made this team more effective while on the field seems like the best option for the Bengals at this time.
So, is Sanu the best option for the Bengals at wide receiver? The answer should be a resounding "yes."