The Patriots traded a second-round pick to the Falcons for Mohamed Sanu Tuesday, a deal that shakes up two of the most high-profile passing attacks in the NFL — and could have a big impact for Fantasy leagues as we reach the mid-way point of the season.
On the Patriots side, their receiving corps has been thinned out by the injury to Josh Gordon, as well as the failed Antonio Brown experiment. That has led to them being connected to just about every trade candidate at the position. At 7-0 and coming off another dominant win, it's not like they've needed much from their receivers yet, but Sanu should fit in well.
The Patriots are led by Julian Edelman, who is averaging nearly 10 targets per game, and has 45 catches for 496 yards and two touchdowns. They haven't gotten much out of the rest of the receiving corps, however. Gordon has been less effective than expected even before the injury, while Phillip Dorsett has more than 53 yards in just one game to date.
What will be interesting to see is how the Patriots use Sanu, who lined up in the slot on 84.4% of his routes run this season. Edelman also lines up out of the slot primarily (65.5% of the time), and while the Patriots have run the second-most four-wide receiver sets in the league, they have done so on only 20 pass attempts, so one of them will likely see a significant change in role incoming. We'll see who makes the move out wide more often — history suggests it should be Edelman — but either way, expect Sanu to see a nice increase in targets with this move.
Sanu got off to a strong start with six or more targets in each of the first four games for the Falcons, but it was always going to be tough to sustain that kind of role given the talent in the passing game, where he might be the fourth option in most games. He had just 11 targets over the past three games, and was on pace for 96 for the season, right in line with where he had been the previous two seasons. In New England, he should have room for more work because the Patriots have been almost as pass-happy as the Falcons, only they don't have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper to contend with for target share.
Sanu probably doesn't have huge upside in the Patriots offense, and he is a bit redundant with Edelman, but he should still see an uptick in targets, and is worth going out and adding where available as a WR3 or flex option.
On the Falcons side, all this does is consolidate their targets even more. Only five players had more than 14 targets before the trade, and I wouldn't expect to see Justin Hardy suddenly step into a more significant role. Julio Jones should continue to see tons of looks, but now Austin Hooper and especially Calvin Ridley figure to play even more prominent roles.
That will, of course, depend on Matt Ryan getting healthy, as all three would take a hit if Matt Schaub is playing quarterback for a significant amount of time. However, Ryan could end up missing just one game, if that, while recovering from the ankle sprain suffered Sunday, as the Falcons have a bye in Week 9 after facing the Seahawks this week.
Jones, Hooper and Ridley are all high-level Fantasy options already, but each one's outlook got a little bit better with Sanu out of the picture. Expect the Falcons to continue funneling nearly most of the passing-game work their way, and as long as Ryan is healthy, that will mean all three are must-start options moving forward.
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