The Broncos will obviously be trotting out a new 2018 QB in Case Keenum. If the early preseason is any indication, Keenum has a clear favorite target here: Emmanuel Sanders. Though the stats are nothing crazy (3-27), the “Usage” has been abundant. Sanders has been targeted on 7 of Keenum’s 16 attempts (all Week 2), and his 43.8% target share is the highest of any first-team WR thus far this preseason. Considering Sanders’ newfound slot usage and Keenum’s history peppering this spot, the WRs target uptick is no mere coincidence.
To be specific: Sanders has run 53% of his routes from the slot this Preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. This is a significant increase from his 27% slot usage in 2018, and flashy rookie WR Courtland Sutton has played strictly outside and only in 3-WR sets.
This is significant, considering Keenum’s success peppering Vikings’ slot WR Adam Thielen in 2017. Thielen experienced a massive breakout, hauling in 91 receptions for 1,276 yards — 27 more catches than the more-talented Stefon Diggs. In particular, Keenum locked into the slot and Thielen on third-downs, where Thielen trailed only Keenan Allen and tied DeAndre Hopkins with 32% of his team’s targets. In three first-team drives, the Broncos had six third down opportunites.
Sanders was targeted on 3 of 6 chances, and accounted for 2 of the team’s 3 successful third downs. He also drew two-straight deep targets with his team needing 18 yards — and Keenum barely missed on what would’ve gone for a long score.
Though he’s coming off a dreadful 2017, Sanders fought through an ankle injury the entire second half, and horrendous QB-play all season. Both are fixed up, and Sanders is just a year removed from three-straight 1,000+ yard seasons. Between his newfound slot-usage and Keenum’s affinity for targeting the position, expect Sanders to return to form. His 91 ADP is a steal, and Sanders is likely to outscore fellow WR Demaryius Thomas, who goes nearly 50 picks sooner. Capitalize.