Where Does Emmanuel Sanders Fit in the 49ers WR Pecking Order?

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

When the 49ers went out and traded for Emmanuel Sanders, some people thought it was an overpay. San Francisco sent a third- and a fourth-rounder to Denver for Sanders and their fifth. Putting that into perspective at this moment: that is a late third and a late fourth for Sanders and an early fifth. You can almost throw the fourth and fifth out because there isn’t many picks between the two. So now it’s a late third for Sanders. If Sanders walks next season the 49ers may be able to get a comp pick for him. Factor all that in and the Niners stole Sanders.

Since we got that out of the way, what can we expect from Sanders rest of season? In his 49ers debut he caught three passes on five targets for 25 yards and one touchdown. Not bad for less than a week on a new team.

His other two receptions were on third down, including one for 13 yards on third-and-11. He came through when his number was called. He also played on 83 percent of the offensive snaps, so he was out there a lot. When Sanders wasn’t catching passes, the mad scientist Kyle Shanahan was using him as decoy. This will really help the 49ers because it will take pressure off George Kittle.

Make no mistake about it, Kittle is the 49ers’ number-one receiver. He will get most of the targets; he is Gronk 2.0.(That’s right I said it, Gronk 2.0.) But the 49ers have been waiting for someone to step up and say “I am the guy.” I thought Dante Pettis was at the beginning of the season, and then he wasn’t. I thought Pettis might be turning the corner after the Rams game, and then he wasn’t. This is why the 49ers traded for Sanders: no one was stepping up to be the guy.

Now that Sanders is here to stay for the rest of 2019 he will be the highest targeted wide receiver for the 49ers. The 49ers have a unique team because they went old school:run the ball down your throat and then smother you on defense. The Handsome One hasn’t had to do a lot.

If that continues, do not expect double digit-targets and 100-plus-yard games from Sanders. I think he will be more around the 4-for-40 and maybe a touchdown. But of the 49ers’ wide receivers, he will lead them in targets rest of season.

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