With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Patriots sprung a deal with the Falcons for receiver Mohamed Sanu. At the same time, Emmanuel Sanders, who was connected to the Patriots, was sent to the 49ers. Now after seven weeks have passed, we look back at who got the better deal.
The Sanders Deal
49ers Received: Sanders and 2020 5th Rounder
Broncos Received: 2020 3rd and 4th Rounder
The 49ers’ trade for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is looking like one of the best moves of the season. The former Pro-Bowl receiver has spent the last six seasons with the Broncos, remaining virtually out of Super Bowl contention for the last four years. In his time in Denver, Sanders only had a truly good quarterback in the first year with the Broncos. In that season he clearly showed his superstar ability when given a good QB, as he went for 1,404 yards with nine touchdowns.
Now for the first time since 2014, Sanders has a great QB and a team that can compete for the Super Bowl. He already looks like to be benefitting from this change, as despite competing with stars like Kittle and Samuel, Emmanuel's play has improved. His overall yards, yards per reception, yards per game, and touchdowns have improved drastically. This is even with fewer targets and receptions and despite his age, he looks to be getting better with each game.
But Sanders is not the only benefactor, as the 49ers offense as a whole has improved thanks in part to him. In six games without Sanders the 49ers averaged 215 passing YPG. With Sanders, the 49ers averaged a much improved 261 passing YPG. The yards per pass increased as well, from 7.9 to 8.7. Passing touchdowns have gone up, and interceptions have decreased, with the offense also going from averaging 26 PPG to 34 PPG.
The 49ers surrendered a third and fourth-round pick to Denver for Sanders, which on the surface is a steal. But when you take into consideration he could leave in the offseason, it complicates matters. If San Francisco can resign him, this deal looks to be a steal for the 49ers.
The Sanu Deal
Patriots Received: Mohamed Sanu
Falcons Received: 2020 2nd Rounder
While the Sander's trade looked like a win for both teams right from the moment it was announced, the Sanu trade brought polarization between fans from both teams. For starters, to Falcon's fans it appeared that Atlanta finally waved the white flag and began the process of rebuilding. While it was expected, it was a reality check that angered many fans that saw their beloved team fall so quickly. On the flip side, while Sanu was a fan favorite, receiving a second-rounder for your third-string WR is spectacular. Josh Gordon was the Pats third-string, and they released him for nothing.
But it was even crazier on the New England end. On one hand, it appeared the Patriots desperately needed another receiver to stabilize a core that was full of inexperienced players not yet used to the NFL. But to spend more than the 49ers did for quite simply a worse receiver was ballsy. And so far, the risk has not met the reward.
Sanu's contract is cheaper and, more importantly, longer than Sanders', meaning he has plenty of time to settle in. But as of this moment, the trade was not worth it. With Atlanta, he was on pace for 600 or so receiving yard season, which is good enough to be a third option on a contending team. But his play has sunk to a level that he is now the fourth option among wide receivers, and fifth if you include James White.
Unlike Sanders, Sanu's addition has not boosted the offense as initially hoped. You could even say the offense got slightly worse, but it would be unfair to put that on Sanu due to the offensive line turnover and introduction of a struggling Harry. But what we do know for certain is that the offense has gotten to the point where you can say the run game is considerably better at getting touchdowns than the passing game. This should never be the case with Tom Brady as your QB.
To acquire Sanu in a trade wouldn't be bad at all IF the Patriots' offense ticked up similar to San Francisco's. A second-rounder is very valuable, as shown by the fact that Belichick has selected the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Jamie Collins, Rob Gronkowski, Patrick Chung, Deion Branch, and Matt Light all in the second round of the draft. I wouldn't say they threw away the pick, but the Pats possibly gave up more than they should've in their haste to fill a need. Luckily, as I said before, Sanu still has plenty of time to become the guy we need him to be.
So, Who Won The Trades?
San Francisco didn't necessarily need Sanders, but with him their offense becomes even more lethal. He also provides a mentor ability to the younger receivers on the team, as well as Garoppolo himself. The 49ers definitely stole him away from the Broncos, but it remains to be seen just how good the trade is for them depending on if he resigns.
The Patriots had a big need, they found the guy they thought would fill it, and they overpaid a bit for it. Sanu is a solid addition, who adds a veteran presence and clutch playoff ability. He can still turn into a great number two here in New England while being able to relieve pressure off Edelman, and help Jakobi Meyers and Harry develop and learn the game. A second-rounder is definitely an over-payment, but what he can potentially bring on and off the field is very valuable to the Patriots in the long run.