Mohamed Sanu was drafted by the Bengals in 2012 after then-rookie wide receiver A.J. Green's breakout performance demanded a supporting cast of offensive talent. Sanu ended his rookie season with 154 yards on 16 receptions, along with four receiving touchdowns. He started three games in 2012 before suffering a season-ending injury. He heads into 2013 reportedly one-hundred percent healthy.
WHY HE RANKED HERE
While Sanu's stat line for 2012 doesn't seem impressive, it's important to recall the fact that Sanu's four receiving touchdowns in 2012 occurred during a three-game span. During that time, Sanu was nominated for Offensive Rookie of the Month (but lost to Robert Griffin III), and he seemed to be growing into a reliable red zone target for Andy Dalton. It's hard not to wonder what could have been, as Sanu was placed on the Injured Reserve least with a season-ending stress fracture in his foot.
Heading into the 2012 season, Sanu was touted as a physically tough receiver that could move the chains by his ability to catch passes in traffic. It seemed, even for a fleeting moment, that Sanu's talents were as advertised at the NFL level. Let's not forget that Sanu had another touchdown in 2012 beyond the four receiving touchdowns: he tossed a 73-yard touchdown to A.J. Green - just further indication that Sanu will do what's needed for the team.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE
Sanu's future is riddled with promise, but certainly no guarantees. While Sanu's numbers in 2012 were impressive given the short window of time he started for the Bengals, it's simply too small of a sample to say with absolute confidence that Sanu will be a strong playmaker in 2013. How Sanu fits into the offense is another question. The Bengals have a promising young tight end in rookie Tyler Eifert, and he's praised as an excellent pass-catching tight end.
If Dalton begins to rely on Eifert early on, particularly in the red zone, it could diminish some of Sanu's contributions. Another question mark concerning Sanu is offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's plans on utilizing him properly in 2013. With Andrew Hawkins being a potential slot receiver when his elusive speed is needed, and with rookie Giovanni Bernard being hinted at as a wide receiver in some packages, Sanu may become more of a rotational player. Regardless, if Sanu is making plays and earning Dalton's trust, it's hard to imagine he'll be spending much time on the bench.
Sanu represents a lot of what makes the 2013 Bengals so promising: We've seen so much potential over the past several years, and we've even seen some small successes in making consecutive playoffs, but it's up to the team and its coaches to take that next step. It's up to the Bengals to harness and execute their offensive strengths. Mohamed Sanu, while limited in his time as an NFL starter, shows some great potential. However, Sanu needs to make a statement in 2013 and show that he is the important piece of the offense that he'd led many to believe he can be.