Emmanuel Sanders is headed to the San Francisco 49ers. Is the move good news for his fantasy value? What kind of opportunity is he leaving behind with the Broncos?
The San Francisco 49ers were clearly in the market for a wide receiver, and on Tuesday they got Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos. The real life on-field impact should be palatable, as the 49ers had no wide receiver even had 200 yards or more than 15 catches over their first six games this season.
Sanders has 30 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns this season, as he moves to being San Francisco’s No. 1 wide receiver. He’s getting an upgrade at quarterback from Joe Flacco to Jimmy Garoppolo, on a surface eye test level backed up by data. Per Sports Info Solutions (minimum 100 pass attempts), Garoppolo ranks fourth in the league in catchable target rate (80.8 percent) so far this season, with Flacco at 13th (74.8 percent). Going to on-target rate, the gap gets wider with Garoppolo fifth (74.9 percent) and Flacco tied for 22nd (67 percent).
Despite Flacco’s obvious flaws, and three games with two or fewer catches so far this season, Sanders is WR30 in standard scoring leagues and WR27 in full-point PPR through Week 7. A push into WR2 territory, with an offensive scheme he should hit the ground running with since Broncos’ offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is a Shanahan disciple, feels like a foregone conclusion.
In terms of raw pass attempts per game, the 49ers have had nearly five fewer per game than the Broncos this season. Game situations can drive some of that, but San Francisco is a run heavy outfit in general.
Sanders is a WR3 right now, and he’s set to comfortably finish the season as a WR2 in PPR formats (and possibly in standard scoring too) with the move to the 49ers.
On the Broncos’ side, Courtland Sutton now becomes the clear No. 1 wide receiver and he’s already WR11 in standard and full-point PPR scoring this season. He’ll get more attention from opposing secondaries going forward, but he’s still a weekly fantasy starter.
As for who might step into an opportunity with Sanders gone, luckily we’ve got a sample to draw from. When Sanders missed the final four games of last season with a torn Achilles, DaeSean Hamilton stepped in and had 25 receptions (on 38 targets) with over nine fantasy points (full-point PPR) in all four (more than 11 three times). Of course Flacco is a different kind of quarterback than Case Keenum, so that kind of uptick is not necessarily coming now. That said, Hamilton is worth considering as a waiver wire add in deep PPR leagues.
Broncos rookie tight end Noah Fant has had a disappointing start to the season, with less than 50 yards in all seven games with two drops on 24 targets. But Flacco has leaned on tight ends before (see Dennis Pitta when he was healthy). In the dead zone that the position is in fantasy, Fant is a worth a speculative add and maybe even a streaming start in Week 8 against an Indianapolis Colts’ defense that is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season (Yahoo! PPR scoring).