The veteran Emmanuel Sanders figures to be a rock-solid No. 2 WR for the Saints, yet he’s currently ranked No. 45 on RotoBaller’s 2020 full-point PPR WR rankings, 15 spots lower than his 2019 finish.
On the surface, the case for Sanders is pretty clear. He goes from Drew Lock/Jimmy Garoppolo to Drew Brees, lining up opposite Courtland Sutton/Deebo Samuel, to Michael Thomas, and moves from the rebuilding Broncos/run-first Niners to the title-contending, pass-efficient Saints. But what else?
That’s right. Dome games. Weather-neutral, astroturf, limited variable football. In other words; an offense’s best friend!
Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, there are only 8 dome teams; the Cardinals, Colts, Cowboys, Falcons, Lions, Saints, Vikings, and Texans. Five of the top ten PPR WRs come from dome teams, which make up only 25% of the league. That’s neat, but still not enough to prove true relevance for Sanders. What about Sanders’ actual production inside versus outside?
Since becoming fantasy relevant in 2013, Sanders has enjoyed 8 total NFL games inside a dome. He has scored over 20 points in full point PPR four times, above double-digits seven times, and scored less than 10 (9.7 in 2013) once. His eight-game average amongst games in a dome: 18.9, which is better than his average score of 18.5 in 2014 when he caught 101 passes for 1,404 yards, and nine touchdowns.
Sanders gets an automatic nine games inside a dome this year — eight home games with the Saints, and one road game against the Atlanta Falcons.
A New Look New Orleans
More than half of New Orleans receiving production was accounted for by two players. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Kamara and Thomas accounted for 54% of New Orleans total receptions of 418, and 51% of New Orleans total receiving yards of 4,431.
Again, on the surface, this seems to have an obvious implication. Sanders, and everyone else, will be fighting for scraps after Kamara and Thomas have had their daily fantasy feast. However, looking at New Orleans snap count amongst WRs, it’s clear the opportunities exist.
Ted Ginn Jr., while a valuable on-field asset, has never been a fantasy producer like Emmanuel Sanders. On 9 starts in 16 games played, Ginn Jr. accounted for 57% of New Orleans total offensive snaps in 2019, substantially more than Sanders 2019 snap count in Denver (35%), and San Francisco (46%). Yet, Ginn Jr. accounted for just 7% of New Orleans total receptions, and 9.5% of New Orleans total receiving yards.
This is simply not a sustainable way for New Orleans to continue to run their offense. The signing of Sanders makes perfect sense; replicate Ginn’s snap count, but improve on the production. The snaps and opportunities will be there for Sanders, who is a significantly more refined and talented wide receiver than Ginn Jr.
Emmanuel Sanders’ 2020 fantasy outlook is the most interesting it’s been since the Peyton Manning-Bronco days. Headed into 2020 Sanders gets an upgrade at QB, an upgrade in system, an upgrade in his surrounding weapons, nine (!) indoor games, all while (expectantly) receiving an increase in snaps from 2019. Expect a healthy Sanders, now two years removed from a torn Achilles, to outplay his current WR rank of 45, and he should be drafted ahead of players like Julian Edelman, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepard.