Emmanuel Sanders

Would Emmanuel Sanders have been better Patriots fit than Mohamed Sanu?

Would Emmanuel Sanders have been better Patriots fit than Mohamed Sanu?

Hindsight is always 20/20. Hindsight also suggests the New England Patriots may have been better off with the *other* veteran wide receiver.

The Patriots acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 22 in exchange for a 2020-second round pick. Hours later, San Francisco 49ers -- who reportedly had interest in Sanu -- "settled" for Emmanuel Sanders, sending a 2020 third-rounder and a 2020 fourth-rounder to the Denver Broncos for the 32-year-old receiver and a 2020 fifth-rounder.

Fast forward to Dec. 10, when both receivers and their respective offenses are going in opposite directions. Here are Sanu's stats with New England compared to Sanders' stats with San Francisco, including both teams' records since the trades:

Sanu (3-3 with Patriots): 18 receptions, 135 yards, one TD in five games played
Sanders (5-2 with 49ers): 28 receptions, 407 yards, three TDs in seven games played

Those stats come with a caveat: Sanu suffered a high ankle sprain in his third game with the Patriots that sidelined him for one game and has limited his effectiveness in the last two. Sanders, meanwhile, has stayed healthy after recovering from a torn Achilles in the offseason.

But as The Athletic's Mike Sando points out, there's evidence to suggest Sanders would have fit better in New England even if both players were healthy.

Per Sando, Sanders has caught 67 passes of 15 yards or more in the last four seasons, compared to Sanu's 44. Those kinds of big plays have been relatively rare in New England, where the Patriots are tied for 13th in the NFL in passing plays of 25 yards or more.

That's not too surprising considering the Patriots lack of weapons compared to San Francisco, which has an All-Pro tight end in George Kittle and a speedy slot man in Deebo Samuel.

"Sanders would be the intermediate to deeper threat that they don’t have in New England right now," an NFL evaluator told Sando.

Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry eventually could be that deeper threat but has yet to realize his potential. And save for a 10-catch, 81-yard effort against the Baltimore Ravens, Sanu hasn't been able to get open consistently for quarterback Tom Brady.

That begs the inevitable question of whether Sanders -- who averaged 5.9 receptions per game last season compared to Sanu's 4.1 -- would have given New England's offense a bigger spark.

Sanu still has time to carve out an increased role for the 10-3 Patriots down the stretch and into the playoffs. But if Sanders continues to thrive with ex-Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be worth wondering "what if."

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Report: 49ers acquire WR Emmanuel Sanders in trade with Broncos

Report: 49ers acquire WR Emmanuel Sanders in trade with Broncos

Shortly after the New England Patriots traded for Mohamed Sanu, the San Francisco 49ers responded by acquiring a wide receiver of their own.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos sent Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round draft pick to San Francisco for third and fourth-round picks. Denver apparently preferred to keep Sanders for their Week 8 matchup vs. the Colts, but that didn't go as planned.

Sanders is a great addition to a 6-0 Niners squad in need of a veteran wide receiver presence, but it appears he wasn't their first choice. They targeted Sanu before the ex-Falcons wideout landed with New England, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Now, Sanders will catch passes from ex-Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Given that Pats connection, along with San Francisco originally targeting Sanu and running back Matt Breida "liking the 49ers' chances" vs. New England, a potential Super Bowl 54 matchup between the two squads just got even more intriguing.

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NFL Rumors: If traded, Emmanuel Sanders wants to go to a winning team

NFL Rumors: If traded, Emmanuel Sanders wants to go to a winning team

If he's indeed traded before the October 29 trade deadline, Emmanuel Sanders would like to go to a winning team, according to Vic Lombardi. 

Luckily for Sanders, the Patriots are undefeated and could use a true outside receiving threat to best construct an offense that can appropriately compliment New England's league-best defense. 

We'll find out just how interested the Patriots are in acquiring Sanders via trade, but as of now, they're the betting favorites to land the wide receiver, just ahead of the 49ers, Eagles and Saints.

The Broncos' reported asking price is at least a third-round pick according to Adam Schefter, so it'd be interesting to see if that price goes down if Sanders starts to sit out up until the deadline. The Broncos are currently 2-5 following an embarrassing loss to the Chiefs Thursday night, Joe Flacco doesn't seem to have much left in the tank and Sanders, 32, isn't getting any younger. 

It appears more and more likely that the Broncos will look to find a new home for Sanders by next week, it'll just depend on whether they're willing to send him to a conference foe for less than what they originally wanted. John Elway could do what the Steelers did with Antonio Brown and trade Sanders to any other team, even if the return isn't as good. 

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