Fantasy owners have been thrilled with what they have gotten from Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders the last two weeks. It's also clear that now is the perfect time to trade the 27-year-old.
If that sounds like crazy talk, it will make more sense in a bit. After all, Sanders has caught four touchdown passes in the span of four days against the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers. That was the only thing missing from the speedy wideout's 2014 resume up to this point.
Yet if you really break down the numbers for Sanders in Denver's offense, they are all over the place. It also doesn't help that Peyton Manning is one of the most unpredictable ball distributors in the NFL. That's obviously not a dig on his accuracy, but rather the way he includes anyone and everyone in the game plan.
Sanders is one of three Broncos players to have at least 30 receptions, and five have at least 10 receptions. Five players have caught at least one touchdown catch from Manning. The future Hall of Fame quarterback doesn't care who catches the ball, so long as they do catch it when he throws it.
Manning basically said as much to reporters after Sanders' big game against the Chargers. "I feel like on any given night it can be anybody's night," Manning said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. " ... They're all running full-speed routes because they know the ball might be coming to them."
That's a blessing and a curse for fantasy owners, which is a point more or less underlined by Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com:
The Denver offense spreads the love unpredictably, with any of Manning's talented pass-catchers capable of multi-touchdown outbursts in any given week. Julius Thomas was the hot hand early, then gave way to Demaryius Thomas and, last night, Sanders. After being held scoreless despite high usage in the season's first five weeks, Sanders now has four touchdowns in his last two games.
Let's take a deeper look at the weekly trends for Denver's top three pass-catchers this season:
|2014 Denver Broncos' Receptions By Weeks|
|Player||Weeks 1-3||Week 5-6||Weeks 7-8|
|Emmanuel Sanders||25 rec., 334 yards, 0 TDs||10 rec., 139 yards, 0 TDs||12 rec., 161 yards, 4 TDs|
|Demaryius Thomas||13 rec., 141 yards, 1 TD||18 rec., 370 yards, 3 TDs||16 rec., 276 yards, 2 TDs|
|Julius Thomas||14 rec., 160 yards, 5 TDs||10 rec., 117 yards, 4 TDs||6 rec., 50 yards, 0 TDs|
As you can see, Julius Thomas' touchdowns have gone away as Sanders' have arrived. Eventually Manning will go back to his big tight end because you can't beat a 6'5", 250-pound player in the red zone.
Dealing a player from an offense as potent as Denver's is always risky, yet you have to take on some risk in order to maximize potential. For instance, Sanders' 30-point game in standard scoring leagues, per ESPN, was better than any single game by Jordy Nelson or Dez Bryant this year.
What Nelson and Bryant have going for them that Sanders doesn't is consistency. Sanders has three games this season with less than 80 receiving yards and two games with just three catches.
Sanders is also a player whose best attribute is stretching the field. He's a speedy wide receiver who's at his best running straight ahead. Manning's arm strength doesn't always make great use of that, which is why Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker are so valuable because they specialize in running after the catch.
This year, per ESPN.com, Sanders (105) ranks behind Demaryius Thomas (342) and Julius Thomas (107) in yards after the catch. Welker is just 10 yards behind him despite missing the first two games of the season.
Another factor to keep in mind is who Sanders has put up his numbers against. The 49ers defense was a shell of its former self in that Sunday night game. Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus pointed out that Chris Cook's injury sustained during the game left Jim Harbaugh's group with three healthy defensive backs:
The 49ers also played that game with two backup linebackers in Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland thanks to Patrick Willis' injury.
San Diego's pass defense ranks well in yards allowed, eighth overall, but it's allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.5 percent of their passes and fifth-most touchdown passes. The Chargers are at their best when the offense is controlling the ball so that their undermanned defense doesn't have to be on the field.
With a game against New England's top-ranked secondary coming up in Week 9, Sanders will come back down to earth. In fact, with the Patriots losing Jerod Mayo, Julius Thomas figures to get a lot of Manning's attention over the middle.
Right now, given how high his stock has climbed, Sanders might be viewed in some circles as a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver. He's not because the Broncos already have one of those and a No. 1 tight end.
There are going to be times when Manning loses Sanders, as we've seen at various points this season. Teams will be lining up to stop him now more than ever, opening holes for the Thomas duo to make their mark.
Take advantage of this moment to gauge the trade market for Sanders. He's never been a No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy football before and isn't going to maintain this pace the rest of the season. If you can get a solid running back or another more stable receiver in a less crowded offense, take it.
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