Mohamed Sanu Sr. wrote off a dismal half-season for the Patriots because of a bum ankle. Only time well tell if he was worth the second-round pick he cost.
Nine days before Halloween last year, the New England Patriots sent a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for Mohamed Sanu Sr.
The hope at the time was that Sanu would instantly come in and elevate a sagging receiver depth chart. Only weeks earlier, New England had boasted one of the best top-to-bottom receiver groups in the NFL — a star-studded bunch that included Julian Edelman, Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and (an injured) N’Keal Harry.
But thanks to Brown’s legal issues and subsequent release from the team — combined with Gordon’s own substance abuse issues and release from the team — the Patriots suddenly found themselves with Edelman, Dorsett, and not a whole lot else.
Unwilling to wait till Harry returned from IR, they made the right move in getting active at the trade deadline. Importing Sanu seemed like a solid plan, and it certainly earned the approval of Tom Brady at the time.
Unfortunately, Sanu was reportedly troubled by an ankle injury he suffered in his third game with the team against the Eagles. The injury hobbled him the rest of the year, and he was largely a non-factor throughout all of December.
He arguably had his worst game as a Patriot when the team needed him most, too: he caught just one of five targets for 11 yards in New England’s Wild Card loss to Tennessee.
Fans accustomed to seeing the Patriots go on deep postseason runs and challenge for Super Bowl titles were utterly shocked to see them lose at home in early January. Making matters worse, Brady departed in free agency.
So where does all this leave Sanu in 2020?
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
In a perfect world, Sanu returns for his ninth NFL season in the best shape of his life, completely healed up from his ankle injury and the offseason surgery he had to repair it. He enters training camp as the No. 2 receiver and he never relinquishes that spot.
The 2019 Patriots were a one-man show at receiver after the departures of Brown and Gordon. New England was basically Edelman and nothing else at the position.
Ideally, Sanu reminds everyone why he was worth a second-round pick. He either leads the team in receiving yards or finishes a close second or third.
If nothing else, he avoids the drops he often had as a Patriot in 2019.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
Even if he stays healthy all season in 2020, Sanu can ill afford to play poorly.
He’s a leading candidate to get the axe if that happens. Obviously, Bill Belichick and the Patriots brass would hate to cut ties with a player that cost them a second-round pick — especially after getting such limited action from him.
But make no mistake: If Sanu struggles again in 2020, Belichick isn’t so merciful he’ll let it slide. He’d rather eat the second-round pick and Sanu’s salary and find someone better if need be when it comes to winning.
Hopefully, for Sanu’s sake, it doesn’t come to that.