by Ray Kuhn
Andy Dalton has to throw the ball to someone. For the past few seasons his main target was A.J. Green, and everyone else found their niche in complementary receiving roles. Last season Marvin Jones emerged with 10 touchdown catches and more than 700 yards as proof that Dalton could support multiple pass catchers. Unfortunately while Dalton begins to grow as a quarterback, but his receivers keep on disappearing.
Jones, who had yet to see the field this season, is now on season ending Injured Reserve. After injuring his elbow in the first half of Week 1, Tyler Eifert was placed on short-term Injured Reserve, and it will still be a few games before we see the second year tight end. Of even greater importance, both to the Bengals and to fantasy owners, is the status of Green’s toe. He has been battling the injury all season, was inactive last week and his status for this coming week is still very much in question. At this point I would operate under the assumption that Dalton will not have Green at his disposal this week, with next week still in doubt.
So with Green sidelined, who is picking up the slack?
If the answer wasn’t apparent based on his performance against the Panthers last week, it is Mohammed Sanu. Even once Green does return I would suspect that, at least for a few weeks, he will be on somewhat of a target count to keep him fresh. That means Sanu will continue to have value for the duration of the season. Yes there will be a slight decrease in targets, and therefore value, but the production will be sustainable for Sanu to remain relevant as a WR3/FLEX option. This is especially true as we navigate the bye weeks.
Sanu is now in his third professional season, and aside from a few flashes he has never been a consistent receiving threat. It was thought that perhaps he would have emerged last season, but instead it was Jones that exploded onto the scene.
In his rookie season, Sanu caught 16 passes for 154 yards and followed that up last year with 47 catches for 455 yards. Those numbers are hardly inspiring, but it sometimes does take receives a few years to make their presence felt.
Against the Titans in Week 3 we saw what I think is the absolute floor of what we can expect from Sanu this season. He was targeted eight times and caught five passes for 44 yards. In a PPR league it is still a decent performance and it doesn’t leave you empty handed, but there is nothing special about it. However in the last two weeks he has really begun to emerge.
It is hard to accurately judge anything on the Bengals end from the drubbing they received from the Patriots, but he caught five of nine targets for 70 yards and a touchdown. Then, this past week, he made sure that everyone knew who he was. Targeted 15 times he connected with Dalton for 10 catches, a touchdown and 120 yards.
There are certainly going to be receivers more explosive and athletic than Sanu, but he appears to have established a good chemistry with Dalton and is someone the quarterback trusts. Once Green returns, Sanu won’t be targeted 15 times a game, but he will still be part of the Bengals’ game plan.
Until Green is fully healthy, Sanu will likely be a must start option. The problem is that I would only expect that to continue for another two weeks. However, what sets Sanu apart from other fill in options is that he will still have some value for the rest of the season. Just don’t pay for continuing production based on 15 targets.