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Player Spotlight: Mike Wallace

A detailed look at Mike Wallace's fantasy prospects for 2013

After back-to-back seasons as a top ten wide receiver, Mike Wallace struggled to produce WR2 numbers in 2012. After a well-publicized holdout that lasted until two weeks before the season opener, Wallace got out of the gates quickly with four touchdowns in his first five games. Wallace, however, struggled over the second half of the season and admitted that he had a hard time focusing in Todd Haley's offense.

Those struggles bring to light questions over Wallace's ability to master the entire route tree. He is no doubt an elite deep ball threat, but as DeSean Jackson and Torrey Smith have illustrated, a one-trick pony does not generally make a reliable WR1. Wallace was outstanding with Roethlisberger being Roethlisberger, scrambling around the pocket until the last possible moment before heaving the ball to his star wide out. But in Haley's system, which requires more precise routes and better timing, he struggled. Or did he?

Mike Wallace played11 full games with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback in 2012. During those 11 games, he produced at a level very similar to what he had over the previous two seasons. Look at the comparison on a per game basis, when you only count the games Wallace played with Roethlisberger in 2012:

  REC YARDS TD
2010 3.8 78.6 0.6
2011 4.5 74.6 0.5
2012 4.6 67.7 0.6

How would your opinion of Wallace differ if he'd finished last season as WR13 in fantasy football instead of WR24? Because that is basically what he was when he had Roethlisberger at quarterback. Of course, he won't have Roethlisberger in 2013.

In the offseason Wallace accepted a five year deal from the Dolphins, leaving Haley and Roethlisberger behind for Mike Sherman and Ryan Tannehill. Much has been made about the downgrade Wallace is making going from Roethlisberger to Tannehill, but for his skill set that may be debatable. Tannehill has a huge arm, and no problems airing it out. Just as important is the fact that Sherman seems to value the skills that Wallace possesses.

The Dolphins also added Dustin Keller at tight end, and already had Brian Hartline on the other side of the field, so the team has plenty of options in the intermediate passing game. Wallace should be left to do the things he excels at, namely running down the deep ball and catching screens at the line of scrimmage and making a play. He's shown in the past that he can excel in this role, so just how good could he be?

POSITIVES

  • Wallace will be the unquestioned #1 in Miami and should see a lot of targets
  • The Dolphins seem to want to tailor Wallace's role to his skill set, which is an improvement over Todd Haley's plan
  • Wallace is an elite deep ball threat playing with a young quarterback that has a huge arm

NEGATIVES

  • Wide receivers that change teams at this stage of their career have been very hit and miss
  • The Dolphins offensive line will not be as good as it was in 2012, if Tannehill doesn't have time it won't matter how far he can throw it

PROJECTIONS

  RU RU YDS RU TD REC REC YDS REC TD
Heath Cummings Projections 10 90 0 71 1180 8
David Dodds Projections 2 12 0 70 1036 7

FINAL THOUGHTS

Wallace is a very talented receiver; he just isn't a complete receiver. Assuming that the Dolphins realize that and plan on maximizing his skills, he should have a very nice bounce back year. His ceiling is a borderline WR1, but as he showed in 2012 his floor is much lower than that if Ryan Tannehill is closer to Charlie Batch in 2013 than Ben Roethlisberger. Thankfully, his average draft position is currently in line with his 2012 performance, which he's likely to best by some margin. If you can get Wallace in the fifth round as your WR2, you should be very happy with his production.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote:

Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi once labeled Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace the fastest player he has ever seen on tape. Wallace's career average of 17.2 yards per reception ranks fourth among active receivers. Since entering the NFL four years ago, Wallace leads the league with 27 receptions of 40-plus yards.

Read more here.

Matthew Berry at ESPN.com wrote:

Because of the big contract and Ryan Tannehill's solid completion numbers on deep balls (37 percent, eighth-best among QBs with at least 35 attempts of 21 yards or greater), I know there are some people that are expecting big things in Florida this year. I'm not one of them. He's too inconsistent for me.

Read more here.

Tim Heaney at KFFL.com wrote:

Wallace's deep prowess (17.2 yards per catch over his career) should blend  nicely with Tannehill's arm strength. Though he didn't attempt vertical tosses  often last year, note the QB's statistic in downfield passing accuracy, via Pro Football  Focus. The snare hopefully will focus more now that he's in a fresh start.  Remember that he still found paydirt eight times last year, and Miami will be  eager to get the ball in his hands as often as possible, even if they give him  more short routes to let him take it upfield -- not a bad gadget for WCOs. It's  not as if his route tree is limited, either, as CBS Sports' Pete Prisco notes.

Read more here.


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