Mohamed Sanu has never quite lived up to his NFL potential.
Don’t get us wrong: He’s squeaked out an impactful career. For someone selected late in the third round of the 2012 draft, he has absolutely yielded more value than would be typically expected.
But, at the same time, he’s always seemed to have more to offer. He has the physical tools of a No. 1 option, at 6’5” and 215 pounds, and can be used in trick-play situations as a pass-thrower. He’s been seen in practices and on video throwing 50-plus-yard bombs with fairly good accuracy. That he’s never made a Pro Bowl, or turned in a 1,000-yard season, seems weird.
Some of this can be chalked up to the situations in which he’s found himself. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was never the No. 1 option. By the time he left as a free agent in 2016, he was firmly behind tight end Tyler Eifert and star wide receiver A.J. Green in the pecking order.
Upon landing with the Atlanta Falcons, Sanu was once again limited to complementary duty, behind megastar receiver Julio Jones and a dual-headed running back system. Then, a few years after that, he was flipped to the New England Patriots, a team that prides itself on spreading the ball around rather than featuring any one receiver.
There is still time for Sanu, 30, to have a breakout campaign. The Patriots are thinner at wide receiver than they have been in years past, and they might be in line to add a new quarterback should Tom Brady prove too expensive or decide to sign elsewhere. And yet, if Brady returns, he won’t have the arm to properly accentuate Sanu’s long-distance routes.
Really, if Sanu was ever going to become a star, he might’ve been better off re-signing with the Bengals in 2016. They ended up dealing with injuries to Eifert and Green, both of whom project to leave the team, which paved the way for former No. 3 receiver Tyler Boyd to emerge as a quasi-No. 1 option.
Sanu was well within his rights to bolt for a bigger contract. He made the right decision in that regard. It’s the Bengals who made the mistake. They overestimated their depth at wide receiver. Sanu could’ve ended up carving out a nice career for a team that has spent the past half-decade looking for filler production while its top pass-catchers navigate injuries.