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Average draft position: 174.81
Mike ’60 minutes’ Wallace took his talents to South Beach last week, leaving a void in a once dangerous Steelers’ receiving core behind him. With Antonio Brown primed to slide into the No. 1 spot, there’s plenty of room for another receiver to enter the fantasy picture.
Enter Emmanual Sanders.
No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace was embedded in a contract dispute last season, causing him to miss all of training camp. And, more importantly, the opportunity to learn Todd Haley’s new offense. Sanders benefited from this, starting seven games and turning in the best season of his career with 626 receiving yards on 44 catches and one touchdown.
A reliable receiver, Sanders averaged 3.3 receptions in 2012. He also tallied 42 receiving yards per game, good for about 7 points a week in PPR leagues. While he was consistent, he was hardly productive enough to make an impact in even the deepest of leagues.
In the red zone, Sanders was equally non-prolific. He saw only 5 targets for 16 yards and one touchdown. He accounted for 6.8 percent of targets in the red zone, which pales in comparison to tight end Heath Miller, who accounted for 19.2 percent of red zone targets. Both Wallace and Brown saw more targets in the red zone as well. Obviously, Sanders is likely to see more targets with Wallace out, but he failed to make a big enough impact during his seven starts last season to increase the likelihood of those numbers improving.
Sanders size is perhaps his biggest weakness. At 5’11, 186lbs, he lacks the ability to out jump defenders and simply doesn’t possess a big enough body to shield himself like an Anquan Boldin. His biggest strength lies in his speed and uncanny ability to change direction all while displaying good body control. He would flourish in a West-Coast style offense where he would be required to run a lot of short, quick routes in addition to straight-line sprint races with defensive backs down the sideline. But he’s not a move-the-chains, over-the-middle type guy.
What he can do in Pittsburgh
With Wallace now out, it seems only logical the Steelers would want Sanders to be its next No. 2 guy. But is this the best situation for Sanders?
The Steelers missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record last season. Some of that can be blamed on Ben Roethlistberger’s injury, but the Steelers are still a team with many questions on offense.
Their offense ranked a paltry 21st in yards per game (332.8) and 22nd in total points (336) in 2012. They preferred a two-running-back system with plodders Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman and shelved their once viable Rashad Mendenhall because he couldn’t hang on to ball. The Steelers will likely sign someone to fill its running back void (Ahmad Bradshaw, perhaps?), but right now it’s in shambles.
Without a premier running back, Sanders will face a lot of bump and run on the outside from cornerbacks and won’t be a factor in the deep game due to double coverage.
Bottom line: If Sanders is expected to break out this season in Pittsburgh, he’ll have to be a playmaker in the deep game on a team filled with questions. We got a semi-glipise of what Sanders could in Pittsburgh last season, and it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. As a likely No. 2 receiver, he’s definitely worth a late-round pick either way.