While Demaryius Thomas’ shaky status is troublesome for the Denver Broncos and could bring an element the franchise hasn’t dealt with since becoming a dominant operation, Emmanuel Sanders’ fantasy outlook brightens.
Despite this offense now equipped with lower-level game-manager Trevor Siemian, Sanders remains one of the best man-beaters on short- and medium-range routes in football.
Since that’s what Siemian is going to throw Sunday against a defense that made wonder if Calvin Johnson actually retired in an abominable Week 1 performance, saving money on your WR2 and going with Sanders makes sense in DFS action.
The Broncos have not had to play a game without Thomas since October 2011, when Kyle Orton was starting, and Sanders has never had to function as a No. 1 wide receiver. But there’s too much to like about this Colts matchup to ignore the versatile veteran in Week 2.
Sanders ($6,000 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel) has been the Broncos’ most efficient wide receiver since arriving in Denver in 2014. While not possessing the elite size/speed combination Thomas does, he’s become the more reliable player from week to week.
The No. 2 target’s 2015 playoff work — 16 receptions for 230 yards compared to Thomas’ two-catch postseason — illustrates this. He will also likely run the majority of his routes against a cornerback who spent the offseason unemployed.
As he did for much of Super Bowl 50, Sanders will take on a street free agent. 32-year-old Antonio Cromartie plays right cornerback for the Colts while Broncos-stopper Vontae Davis recovers from a severe injury. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Siemian connected on 10-of-10 passes to the left side of the field, and Sanders caught five passes, on a team-high eight targets, against the Panthers.
He’ll have an easier matchup against the Colts and a past-his-prime Cromartie, who himself is struggling with a hamstring malady.
The 29-year-old target has proven he’s able to shake free of defenders, and the Colts don’t have anyone they can throw at him who will be an obvious stopper. Matthew Stafford and a crew of pass-catchers inferior to Sanders torched Indianapolis for 340 yards. Siemian won’t be able to match that, but he showed poise and managed to mount several drives into the red zone against a much better defense.
And while the Colts have muzzled the Broncos in the recent past, winning three of these teams’ past four meetings, Sanders has gotten his. Excepting the nightmare playoff encounter where Peyton Manning was playing on a torn quadriceps — and even then Sanders caught seven passes — the steady supporting player has been a constant against Indianapolis. Last November, Sanders went 6/90/1 at Lucas Oil Stadium. In Week 1 of 2014, he caught six passes for 77 yards.
The Colts’ defense doesn’t boast nearly the caliber of front-seven talent the Panthers did, and the visitors might have to begin stacking the box to prevent C.J. Anderson from taking over. One-on-one opportunities are going to present themselves and Sanders brings a high floor, even with Siemian.
It’s hard not to see Sanders being a constant factor Sunday. Even if he can’t get into the end zone, both points-per-reception formats (DK is 1 point per catch; FD awards .5 points) favor him.
He rates as the No. 27-highest-priced wideout on FanDuel and No. 25 on DraftKings. Thomas is priced ahead of Sanders on both, based on his frame and pedigree, but he shouldn’t be touched this week due to his hip problem.
A stronger defense would cause concern here, but the Colts just don’t possess a good one right now. Sanders makes sense as a supplementary DFS piece for owners who want a high-end WR1. He’ll be the best wideout or secondary player on the field when he’s out there Sunday, and still priced as a low-end WR2.
At home and against a defense missing its top corner and sporting scant pass-rushing weaponry, don’t shy away from Sanders just because his quarterback had a 118-word Wikipedia page until September.