The Falcons’ dynamic duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White posted one decent year post-Tony Gonazlez before fizzling mightily last season as age and offensive role caught up to White. So Atlanta dipped a toe in the free agent pool and signed former Bengals wingman Mohamed Sanu to a budget-conscious contract to help re-energize their passing game. Sanu is expected to slide into the WR2 role on a depth chart that includes Justin Hardy and Devin Hester, and there may be some upside to that gig.
You may not think that’s the case after scouring last season’s stats for evidence of a contribution from Atlanta’s WR2s. White ranked 82nd in fantasy points scored by wideouts last year, while Leonard Hankerson was just behind him in 87th despite missing nine games due to injury. When you measure by fantasy points per game, Hankerson clocks in at a more respectable—but still not exactly mouth-watering—47th among wideouts. After all, Jones is a consensus top-five fantasy wideout who more importantly is a target hog—he led the NFL with 203 targets last season and has averaged almost 12 targets per game over the past three seasons.
Sanu is used to playing with an elite WR1, having run alongside AJ Green in Cincinnati, but Green averaged a shade under 10 targets per game during Sanu’s time there. Sanu also had to share with Marvin Jones, save for 2014 when Jones missed the entire season due to injury. That year Sanu posted his best numbers: 99 targets, 57 catches, 780 yards, and five touchdowns.
Over the past three seasons WR2s in Atlanta have averaged 95 catches a season, those numbers squeezed first by Tony Gonzalez’s targets and more recently by 130-plus targets to running backs each of the past two seasons. That said, Atlanta has still averaged 106 more passes per game than the Bengals over the last three years.
Also keep in mind that at 6-2 and 210 pounds Sanu is built the way the Falcons seem to want their wideouts—that is, in the mold of the 6-3, 220-pound Jones. Hankerson, who was finding some success in the role now filled by Sanu prior to his season-ending injury, is a similarly-sized 6-2, 205 while White checks in at 6-0, 211. At 5-10, 192 pounds Hardy seems destined for slot duty alongside the 5-11, 190-pound Hester.
The floor for Sanu should be something north of pre-injury Hankerson or what Sanu did as the Bengals’ WR2 when Marvin Jones missed 2014—roughly 4-50, or 64 catches for 800 yards over a full season. Those would be career highs for Sanu, but the uptick in attempts and lack of wide receiver competition in Atlanta solidify that floor. The presence of Julio Jones keeps a lid on Sanu’s potential numbers, but he should still fall comfortably within the range of fantasy help.