Was Mohamed Sanu better than Kenny Britt?

Since the moment Mohamed Sanu declared for the NFL draft, comparisons between the last early entrant from Rutgers, Kenny Britt, have been inevitable. In fact, the two have been essentially linked ever since Mohamed stepped into Britt's starting job as a true freshman, and turned into the team's go-to-playmaker on offense. That raises an interesting point. Both were and are great receivers. If you could only pick one though for the Rutgers pantheon, who would get the nod? First, let's quickly examine their receiving stats.

Name Kenny Britt Mohamed Sanu
Catches 178 210
Yards 3043 2263
Touchdowns 17 12
YPC 17.1 10.8

(This sentence is a preemptive apology if any of those figures are incorrect.)

You can lie with statistics, but the numbers here (with one large caveat, that will be discussed in a minute) are pretty much what everyone saw on the field. Kenny Britt was a dynamic, explosive, awe-inspiring big play threat. He was capable of making something happen any time he held the football; a status that arguably only two other players (Ray Rice and Tim Brown) can claim in the Greg Schiano era at Rutgers. Kenny was destined for NFL greatness, and was going berserk in the early fall before his awful injury. It's really awful thinking that he might return having lost even a hint of athleticism. Imagine throwing a bucket of blue paint on the Mona Lisa, because watching this guy on the field was a work of art.

Mohamed Sanu was not that guy, but he was still a tremendous receiver. As much as Britt aficionados resent the New York Giants for drafting Hakeem Nicks instead of Kenny Britt, Nicks is still a fantastic player; arguably, the NFL's premier possession receiver. Sanu should play a similar role in the NFL. He's tough, he can run routes, and he made a plethora of circus catches in 2011. The guy has nothing to prove, and was clearly Rutgers's offensive MVP this year. He's NFL ready now, and that's why he should be considered an early candidate to contribute from day one as a pro. Britt was NFL ready too on the field, but Sanu is far more mature off of it, and will be a coach's dream for whatever team is fortunate enough to select him come April.

That being said, his style was clearly not similar at all to Britt's. With Kenny, seemingly half the time, Mike Teel would just launch a jump ball way downfield. More often than not, Britt would leap over opposing defenders, come down with the catch, and then knock over a guy or two on his way to the ground. Sanu, at least the way he was used at Rutgers, was far closer to, say, Nicks. You throw a short pass, and then watch him slip past defenders and fight for yardage? Need a first down? Mohamed was up there with a Brian Leonard or Tres Moses in his ability to keep the chains moving during critical drives. Oh, there's also the matter of Sanu spending a good chunk of his first two seasons as a Wildcat QB. Those are 650-odd yards and 9 touchdowns to add to his total, which even the score up a little bit.

One way Sanu may be closer to Rice than Britt is with his reason for declaring. It wasn't just the lure of the pro game. Rutgers over-relied on both; certainly, they had good reason to, but it almost became a crutch. There were consequences, as both really took a physical beating at times. Another caveat with Mo is how badly he was hurt as a sophomore due to all of those fruitless Wildcat runs. Sanu was a surprisingly good passer, but if he was lining up under center, opposing defenses usually knew what was coming. Especially given how poorly the entire offense was meshing through most of 2010. To his credit, he stuck in there through adversity, was able to bounce back with a breakthrough junior campaign, and his now taking his talents to the NFL as an end reward.

Of course they're both good. Football is a competitive sport though, so someone has to be better. Who would you rather take if Rutgers could have one come back for another year of eligibility in 2012? That might not necessarily be the same question as which player is better, as Replacing Mohamed Sanu's schematic role in the offense may be even more difficult than conjuring up his raw production. Rutgers conceivably has a ton of big play threats coming back (Brandon Coleman, Mark Harrison, Miles Shuler, Tim Wright if he's 100% healthy, Jeremy Deering if he switches back from RB, etc, etc...), but will be in want of a dependable security blanket. Is Quron Pratt that guy? Wright? Does J.T. Tartacoff climb up the depth chart? Does a freshman make things even more ridiculously crowded? No one can really say at this point, and it should be an interesting spring in trying to sort this all out.

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