By Chris Spooner, DFW Writer


If there’s a stranger way to start a career than the way things played out for former Bengals’ wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, I’m not sure I know of it. It started on the very first day of the 2012 NFL Draft, as the first round was winding down. Sanu, a hopeful rookie from Rutgers University, received a call from someone claiming to be the Bengals owner, Mike Brown, stating that the team would be taking him with their selection in the first round, the number 27th overall. That call turned out to be a prank, and he would have to wait to hear his name called. As fate would have it, however, it would wind up being the very same team who Sanu thought was taking him in the first round that would wind up taking him with the 83rd-overall selection, a third round pick. But the odd circumstances surrounding his beginning career wouldn’t end there.

In Sanu’s rookie season, during a game versus Washington, Sanu lined up in the Wildcat offense and took the snap, throwing a strike to the team’s star receiver A.J. Green. The pass would wind up going for 70+ yards and a touchdown, giving the young wide receiver the first passing touchdown of his career before he would notch his first receiving one. With that throw, Sanu would find his way into the team record books, as he became the first Bengals wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass.

Sanu would have to wait until the 10th week of the 2012 season before he would see his first touchdown at his given position. Just a few short weeks later, Sanu would suffer a stress fracture, bringing an end to a strange and somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. His sophomore effort wasn’t much better, either, playing in all 16 games, but tallying less than 50 receptions for fewer than 500 yards and only two touchdowns.

It wasn’t until his third season, and injuries to both A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, that Sanu would really get an opportunity to shine. But when he got his chance, he passed the test with flying colors. Sanu would wrack up a career-best 790 yards on 56 receptions and five touchdowns in the 2014 season, adding another passing touchdown to his resume as well, this time to the team’s usual quarterback, the fiery Andy Dalton. To this day, Sanu has yet to throw an incompletion in the NFL, completing all five of his attempts, two of which were touchdowns.



2015Cincinnati Bengals1643339411.90
2014Cincinnati Bengals16135679014.15
2013Cincinnati Bengals1614474559.72
2012Cincinnati Bengals93161549.64


sanue2With Sanu getting an upgrade in the talent around him with the move to the Atlanta Falcons, I anticipate his fantasy number to see an increase as well. Sanu should be firmly planted as the Falcons number two option behind Julio jones, which should make him consistently utilized more than he’s ever been at any point in his career. So far, his career best is just shy of 800 yards on just short of 60 receptions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sanu surpass both of those number for the 2016 season, and approach the 1,000 yard mark. I would also expect to see him surpass his career high 5 touchdowns with his new, expanded offensive role. If he can stay healthy, I would put Sanu somewhere in the ballpark of 65-70 catches and 800-900 yards with 6 to 8 touchdowns, which is healthy production from a WR2/3. If you find yourself in the later rounds of your fantasy draft needing a wide receiver, you may be pleasantly surprised with what you’ll get out of Mohamed Sanu this season.


In spite of having another down year in 2015, thanks in large part to the healthy return of both A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, the Atlanta Falcons saw enough out of the young receiver to give him a 5-year deal worth $32.5 million, cementing Sanu’s place as the team’s second option at wide receiver, behind perennial All-Pro (and possible future Hall of Fame) wide receiver Julio Jones. With Roddy White no longer with the team after being cut in March, Sanu figures to see a rise in his production with his new team. Thanks to the attention that Jones figures to receive, Sanu should face single coverage a majority of the time, against opposing team’s second-best corner. With Matt Ryan, whom I believe still has the potential to be an upper-echelon quarterback in this league, now throwing to Sanu, and a better running attack than the one that he played with in Cincinnati, I look for Sanu’s stats to be much closer to the numbers he was able to put up in 2014, as opposed to the mediocre numbers he’s put up every other year of his career thus far. If Sanu is going to live up to his potential, and the contract that the Falcons gave him, he’s going to have to figure out a way to hold on to the ball consistently. In his expanded role with the Bengals offense in 2014, Sanu put up the best numbers of his career, but it wasn’t without struggles. Sanu led the NFL in drops that season, leading to quarterback Andy Dalton having the worst season of his career. With this new deal, Sanu can’t be that player and expect to not receive criticism, and justifiably so. Having said that, I believe Sanu will see a significant boost in his production, and should be a legitimate WR3 for your fantasy teams next season.


When you take Sanu’s departure from Cincinnati by itself, it doesn’t figure to have a huge impact on the team. Aside from his 2014 season, Sanu was never terribly productive, and his numbers alone could be replaced, likely by the team’s first-round selection Tyler Boyd. However, when you factor in the loss of Marvin Jones as well, then the situation becomes a lot more dire for Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. There should be a lot of pressure on the Bengals to advance in the playoffs this season, as they have reached the point where they are expected to make the playoffs every year, but need to actually win a game one of these years. Now that both Sanu and Jones have left the team, they are left with A.J. Green as their only dependable wide receiver. As things currently sit with the Bengals, behind A.J. Green they have two journeymen wide receivers in Brandon Tate and Brandon LaFell, both of whom failed to latch on with the New England Patriots, who have never had much in the way of depth at the position. Then there’s the aforementioned Tyler Boyd, who is a conundrum for me. When I started looking at players in the 2016 draft, I was really high on Boyd, but the more that I watched him, the lower and lower I got on him. It’s hard for a rookie wide receiver to make a sizeable contribution (Amari Cooper being a rather notable recent outlier), and I won’t be surprised to see Boyd struggle early on. If the Bengals can’t get production from Boyd or the Brandon’s, it could figure to be a long year for the early AFC North front-runner.