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More positives than negatives for 49ers in Sanders trade

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Another hugely important deal has gone down in the NFL a week before the trade deadline. This time the Denver Broncos have traded wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a 2020 fifth-round pick for San Francisco’s 3rd and 4th-rounders in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 49ers, currently one of the two undefeated teams in the league after seven weeks of football, have seen a promising wide receiving group under-perform. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown just 7 touchdown passes while the Niners are 25th in the league in passing yards per game with 214.5.

The 49ers were expected to have a pair of dangerous weapons in Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. However, Goodwin has caught just 11 passes while the rookie Pettis has recorded only 9 receptions. Considering a very solid defense, and the way Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman have established a prolific running game, the addition of one or multiple options for Jimmy G was SF’s main need in the time before the Tuesday, Oct. 29th, deadline.

The passing game came into the year with expectations, hence implying that it has some kind of a high ceiling. It hasn’t lived up to that yet, and may not do so this season; but the 32-year-old Sanders could be an active part does the air raid return to life. He has averaged 12.2 yards per catch and, even with increased workload, can be the driving force of a disappointing passing game.

Sanders is in his last year of a four-year contract, which puts into question if the 49ers didn’t pay too much for the veteran receiver. It is worth noting that Denver dealt Demaryius Thomas to the Texans at the same stage of the 2018 season and got a 4th-rounder in return. The Broncos got a bigger return for Sanders in third and fourth-round picks, just as they had in mind.


However, the 49ers could feel like they overpaid just a fraction too much; still nothing that could have dramatic effects. Arguably a third-rounder only would’ve been a more realistic value for the Broncos’ WR2. Denver can feel satisfied with turning a 5th-round pick into two higher selections; now they have 9 picks in next year’s draft. In all honesty, the wide receiver position could very well be among Denver’s needs in that draft, alongside the offensive line.

On San Francisco’s side, it is easy to see why the 49ers preferred him instead of Bengals WR A.J. Green. Talks with Cincinnati start and finish with the term “A first-round pick”. Had SF traded their 1st-round selection, it would have left them with no picks in both the first and the second round of the draft.

Sanders’ star times and his three straight 1000-yard seasons are long forgotten. Despite that, he’s still reliable, having averaged more than 10 yards per play in his career and being on pace for his best statistical year since his 2016 Pro Bowl campaign. He’s recorded 367 reception yards – no Niners WR has more than 181. He’d rank second only to TE George Kittle in yards through the air.

With all the experience that comes with Sanders, it’s worth noting that there’s some difference between the strategy of this move and that of an A.J. Green trade. John Lynch’s mindset is that if your best receiver is Emmanuel Sanders, than you are betting on the other guys in that core to step up and for Saunders to be the final piece of the puzzle, benefiting from Kyle Shanahan’s playcalling. Getting Green at that price would have been the more desperate move, unneeded in San Francisco’s current situation that doesn’t require overmanaging.

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