Jun 082013

The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Cincinnati Bengals, that player is wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.

Mohamed Sanu had a very nondescript rookie year, catching 16 passes for 154 yards and 4 touchdowns as a 3rd round rookie out of Rutgers. However, he did not really play much, playing only 209 snaps, including just 116 pass snaps. He played more than 50% of his team’s snaps just 3 times, weeks 10-12, when he caught 11 passes for 98 yards and 4 touchdowns. Following that week 12 game, he missed the rest of the season with a foot injury.

However, going into 2013, he’s expected to win the starting job opposite AJ Green with Andrew Hawkins on the slot and he has a good chance to pick up where he left off when he was finally getting playing time and even improve. I love his fit in Cincinnati, with Andy Dalton having a weaker arm than most franchise quarterbacks, with Jay Gruden leading a West Coast Offense as offensive coordinator, and especially with AJ Green opposite him.

Before the draft, I gave Sanu a 2nd round grade and compared him to former Bengal receiver TJ Houshmanzadeh, saying that the perfect fit for him would be for him to play opposite a deep threat like Houshmanzadeh did with Chad Johnson/Ochocinco and just eat up all the underneath targets. Little did I know that Sanu would be drafted by the Bengals, who were in need of a possession receiver like him to play opposite deep threat AJ Green.

He was incredibly productive at Rutgers despite poor quarterback play. In 2011, he caught 115 passes, which was almost 50% of his team’s 256 catches. The #2 guy on his team in terms of catches had 32. However, of the 210 career catches he had at Rutgers, only 4 went for more than 20 yards. He has absolutely no speed to burn and he’s not a vertical threat at all, running a 4.67. He’s really, really good at what he does though, which is getting open short, making tough possession catches. In his 2nd year in the league, he should be able to display those abilities in 2013 and lock down the starting job opposite Green.

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