Despite earning a 6-0 record, the 49ers didn't have a receiver with over 200 yards on the season.
They do now. One who has over 350 yards, in fact.
Sanders will immediately assume the No. 1 receiver role for the Niners, a pretty easy statement to agree with when you consider that two of the Niners' top three wideouts are hurt and a third, Dante Pettis, has underwhelmed thus far. The 10th-year veteran has looked much better than expected coming back from an Achilles injury suffered late last season and has managed a 68.2% catch rate with 12.2 yards per grab through his first seven games with Denver.
Not only does he get an upgrade in the quality of quarterback he's catching passes from, but in the quality of playcaller and offensive philosophy as well. Jimmy Garoppolo ranks fourth in on-target pass attempts with an 80.8% rate among quarterbacks with 100-plus pass attempts; Denver's Joe Flacco ranks 13th and missed on 11 of 43 targets to Sanders this season, per Sports Info Solutions. Sanders also figures to be involved regularly in the Niners' creative system that aggressively tries to exploit opponents' weaknesses; with the Broncos he inexplicably saw six or fewer targets in four of his last five games. The icing on the cake? Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is a disciple of Shanahan, so there shouldn't be much of a learning curve in Sanders understanding his new playbook.
Sanders could contend for No. 2 receiver value right away, especially in PPR formats.
I wouldn't expect Sanders' arrival to seriously impact George Kittle's numbers. If anything, Sanders will force defenses to think twice before double-teaming Kittle. No doubt, Kittle's been a disappointment for those Fantasy fans who spent early-round draft capital on him, but his target share has been strong nearly every game this season, and that shouldn't change. He's still a great, must-start tight end.
It's the target share for the 49ers' other receivers that Sanders will greatly impact. Deebo Samuel is on the shelf with a groin injury, Marquise Goodwin suffered a concussion in Week 7 and Pettis doesn't have even 50 yards in a game this year. They're all removable from rosters in seasonal redraft leagues since their target share figures to sink with Sanders coming aboard.
And of course, Jimmy Garoppolo's outlook gets a little better with Sanders joining the team. Garoppolo's not particularly pushing the ball downfield, but that could change with Sanders, who is capable of running deeper routes. It's not enough to make Garoppolo a must-start quarterback, but at least he'll be a good streaming choice when he has favorable matchups, including two meetings with the Cardinals over his next four games.
Back in Denver
We didn't need Sanders' departure to know that Courtland Sutton is the Broncos' No. 1 receiver -- he's already been filling that role. But Sanders' departure will place the spotlight on Sutton every week until the Broncos can find another receiving threat to keep defenses honest. We'll find out pretty quickly if Sutton can beat double-team coverage, starting as soon as this Sunday against the Colts. You may be surprised to know that Sutton has performed to the level of a low-end No. 1 receiver in non-PPR and PPR formats thus far. Staying there could be challenging, especially in leagues where catches don't count, but he's still a must-start receiver.
Who replaces Sanders? The simple answer is DaeSean Hamilton, who stepped in for Sanders last year. He ended 2018 with 9-plus PPR points in each of his final four games (and three with 11 or more). Despite playing at least 50% of the snaps in every game this year, Hamilton has exceeded five targets and two catches one time. Flacco naturally had eyes for Sutton and Sanders, but it's not like Flacco has relied heavily on his slot receivers throughout his career, and that's where Hamilton may remain following the trade. Should he bump up to four or five catches per game? Yep, that should happen, but that's not enough to expect him re-emerge as a weekly Fantasy contributor. You could certainly add him off waivers, but not ahead of any wideout with top-30 potential.
Instead, there's a little more hope for rookie tight end Noah Fant. His start to the season has underwhelmed, complete with a two-drop game in Week 7 and under 50 yards in every single outing. But unlike Hamilton, he plays a position Flacco has become accustomed to leaning on. Furthermore, Fant should be considered more explosive and thus tougher to cover given his 6-foot-4, 249-pound size and 4.50 speed. Removing Sanders from the offense gives Fant a glimmer of hope as a tight end contributor for Fantasy as soon as this week against the Colts, who struggle to cover tight ends. He's worth a speculative add and a desperation start.
Joe Flacco is best viewed as toxic for Fantasy purposes and shouldn't be counted on unless totally desperate.
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