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Spotlight: Mike Wallace

posted by Mark Wimer on Jul 27th


Mark Wimer's thoughts

After flashing glimpses as a rookie (led the league with 19.4 yards per reception), Mike Wallace emerged as a powerful weapon in his second year (2010):

  • 98 targets
  • 60 receptions
  • 21.0 yards per reception
  • 1,257 yards
  • 10 TDs
  • WR5 ranking

The young Steeler is a burner in the truest sense of the word, and he makes a lot of defensive backs look foolish. Wallace was clutch on the biggest NFL stage last season, too, hauling in 9/89/1 receiving during Super Bowl XLV. He is poised to have another outstanding year during 2011.

A Changing of the Guard
The Steelers' wide receiver stable is stocked with young talent - Wallace is joined by Emmanuel Sanders (49 targets for 28/376/2 last year as a rookie) and Antonio Brown, which is allowing a changing of the guard. Sanders was good enough last year to make Antwaan Randle El a non-factor, and Wallace's emergence coincides with the waning production from Hines Ward. Ward, one of the best Steelers in history, appears to finally be slowing down. Last year he had a respectable 59 receptions for 755 yards and 5 TDs, but spent this offseason Dancing with the Stars and, more recently, getting arrested for failing a field sobriety test (he denies being intoxicated). The point is, Pittsburgh is more than ready to hand over the WR baton to Wallace, and Ward is now fighting to hold off Sanders (or Brown) for the #2 role.

Not Purely A Burner
As you read through the discussion thread (link provided below), you'll see that many smart football minds are worried that Wallace is a one-trick pony. While admittedly it's a heck of a trick, the fear is that Wallace's deep speed is the only weapon in his arsenal, and better defenses will be able to scheme those routes out. We'll find out if they're right soon enough, but last year's statistics pose a reasonable counterargument.

  • Amassed a respectable 376 yards after the catch in 2010 (6th among AFC wideouts)
  • Caught 61% of his targets (that's higher than one would expect of a pure streak outside WR)
  • 38 of 60 receptions were throws of less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage

A Productive Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger missed the first four games of the 2010 season, and while it didn't impact the Steelers win-loss record, it did seem to slow down Wallace's emergence. But take a look at what Wallace did with Ben under center over the final 12 games: 51 receptions for 1,046 yards and 8 TDs. That equates to:

  • 68 receptions
  • 1,395 yards
  • 11 TDs

His full year numbers were Top 5, but were even better (on a per game basis) with Roethlisberger at the helm.

Positives

  • Wallace is young (he'll be 25 when the season begins), but he's got enough NFL experience to be considered a veteran at this point
  • Wallace is entrenched atop the Steelers' depth chart with no challengers in sight
  • Wallace already has a proven track record of productivity two years into his young career

Negatives

  • Wallace relies on his speed and isn't as precise a route runner as other receivers that are in the hunt for elite projections
  • If Hines Ward faces a league suspension, defensive coordinators could devote more players to covering Wallace during 2011
  • Wallace and Roethlisberger's timing may be off to start regular season thanks to the extended NFL labor stoppage this spring and summer

Final thoughts

Mike Wallace is one of the young, rising stars in the NFL. He should land among the top ten at his position again this season, and has the skills and opportunity to challenge for a number one finish during 2011 if everything breaks right for him. I am among the most optimistic of the Footballguys when it comes to Wallace, slotting him at eighth on my redraft ranking board compared to his consensus ranking of 11th as of late July.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

MrTwo94 said:

The closer I look at this guy the more appealing he is. In the second half of last season he went for 38/750/5 which extrapolates to 76/1500/10. In his two years he has averaged 20.3 ypr. It is possible that this guy actually lives up to DeSean Jackson's hype. With Hines Ward beginning to fade away, Mike has a chance to become a top 5 WR, maybe even steal the top spot. He'll likely need to see an increase in targets for that to occur, but Heath Miller and Hines Ward are not nearly as appealing as he is. Although, if he keeps up 20 ypr then he won't need that many targets. 1500/10 is good for #1 in some years. I'm not going to say it happens this year, but it could. At an ADP of WR8, he appears to present value as his floor (with Roethlisberger) has to be 70 rec. And at 15 ypr, you get 1050 yds so he should be a safe pick as well.

fightingillini said:

Only issue with Wallace is that he's going to be more inconsistent than the average WR from game to game. I am worried about his lack of receptions if I am going to draft him as my WR1. Otherwise, he's a threat to score anytime that he gets the ball, and Roethlisberger does a great job of getting him the ball deep or on a medium crossing route. If PIT decides to use him more in the short passing game, the sky is the limit. But I see PIT doing more of the same and using Wallace for more deeper patterns and using Ward, Miller, and Sanders for shorter type passes.

Sigmund Bloom, Footballguys Staff Writer said:

Wallace is being anointed as the next big thing, untouchable in dynasty leagues, and going in the top 10 in some early redrafts. I just don't see the complete game to become a true #1 deserving of that kind of status. He'll be in the top five wideouts sometimes, but be outside of the top 25 many others. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are quality young wide receivers in their own right, and Wallace will have to share with them as they too improve with development. Try to turn Wallace into Dez Bryant or Santonio Holmes and more in your dynasty league and let someone else take him in the top 25-30 picks in your redraft.

rzrback77 said:

Reading through all the postings in the Mike Wallace Spotlight is making me wish that I was a dynasty owner. I think that the board's expectations for Mr. Wallace are way over mine. Perhaps, I am ignoring his play in the NFL, but I watched him in the SEC and he was only a good receiver. He also has played two seasons and has averaged 85 targets per year, while he missed no games and was performing very well. I guess that I do not see Hines Ward dropping off the planet this year and I may also be overhyping Emmanuel Sanders. I am really struggling here as I just do not see how he maintains his 20.0 ypc and I think that he will continue to be featured as a deep threat, but just not tageted as often as most here think.


Mike Wallace projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Mark Wimer701330800
Message board consensus7113271000