Emmanuel Sanders - the wide receiver with not only the coolest nickname (He-manuel) but also the coolest middle name (Niamiah) - remains one of the brightest spots on this Denver Broncos offense.
Name: Emmanuel Sanders
Height: 5'11" Weight: 180 soaking wet
Age: 30 Experience: 8
College: Southern Methodist
A true bargain for GM John Elway back in 2014 when he signed the Steelers free agent to a three-year contract worth $15 million and went on to be a focal point for Peyton Manning and a season-saving pair of hands for the 2016 Super Bowl run, Sanders signed an extended contract last September just as the 2016 season got underway for a smooth $33 million over another three years.
It was a solid investment to keep one of the most consistent receivers this very inconsistent offense has had. While WR#1 Demaryius Thomas has maintained the top numbers of the wide receiver corps, Sanders has been consistently just a hair below, making the duo one of the top wideout tandems in the NFL.
Although Sanders’ stats have dropped each year since 2014 - due to no more Manning in 2016 plus a different offensive scheme under Gary Kubiak in 2015 - the Texas native has still had his three best years in the NFL while a Bronco.
With Mike McCoy back to call plays for Denver’s offense and a more experienced young quarterback (whomever it is), Sanders (and Thomas) will likely be in for more circa 2014 numbers this season. Plus, when your AFC West rivals are considering you one of the best in the league (among the likes of Thomas, Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen), you know you’re doing something right.
Sanders has always been an elite athlete with speed to burn. Although he is superb on the outside routes, his sure-fire hands have made him a serious, and often necessary, weapon in the slot too. And he has always had a knack for making clutch catches when needed.
According to Pro Football Focus, Sanders also had the second-lowest drop rate among all wide receivers last year, dropping just one of his 80 catchable targets.
The fact that Sanders’ total yards went down to 1,032 last season compared to 1,135 and 1,404 the two years prior can be partially explained by the fact that No. 10 had more than 50 “uncatchable” targets last season.
At 5-feet-11, 180 pounds, Sanders isn’t out-muscling many cornerbacks in this league, but with his speed and grit - and some sleek double-moves like his 41-yard touchdown against Pacman Jones and the Bengals last year - the wide receiver often outsmarts his defenders.
And given his production when given the ball, his request seems downright legit to me.
Growing up poor in small-town Texas influenced much of Sanders’ motivation for playing sports and being the best he could be.
And now the Texan has translated that passion into his new foundation to help disadvantaged kids be able to play sports and have the opportunities that can help them succeed.
“I wouldn’t change [my background] for the world because it made me who I am and made me appreciate everything I have right now. Those outcomes definitely made me strong.” - Emmanuel Sanders to BroncosTV. “...Seeing how far I’ve come, it just gives me perspective. Just keep on going. Anything is attainable. If there is anybody out there from a small country town, and people tell ’em they can’t make it, look, I’m living testament. Yes you can, if you put the work in.”
With DT on the roster, Sanders will always be listed as the Broncos’ No. 2 wide receiver, but no doubt No. 10 is as crucial to this team’s offense as many teams’ top wideout, so it’s really like having two No. 1s on the team.
And now at age 30, Sanders is really taking his health and athletic gift seriously by cleaning up his diet. No more fast food and a lot more veggies.
That is making this speedy wideout feel like a rookie again.
“I was eating bad,’’ Sanders told 9NEWS’ Mike Klis while hosting his youth football camp last week. “...There’s something about being able to understand your body. What you can put in your body that gives you a burst of energy, or what you put in your body that makes you go to sleep. That’s what I’m understanding more.’’
With an annual goal to help his team get to the Super Bowl, Sanders is also looking for another 1,200/1,300-yard season.
“We’ve got this new offense with Mike McCoy,” he told Klis. “We’re going to be throwing the ball around so my conditioning has to be up, and I’ve been working on that.’’
What kind of yardage production do you expect from ‘He-manuel’ Sanders this season?
This poll is closed
Just north of 1,000 yards
With McCoy here, easily 1,200+
2014 numbers baby - 1,400!