2012 NFL Free Agents: 3 Reasons the Patriots Must Give Up Pick for Mike Wallace

Amelia AhlgrenContributor IIIMarch 14, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: 3 Reasons the Patriots Must Give Up Pick for Mike Wallace

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    It's no secret that the New England Patriots need a wideout heading into the 2012 season, and the Pats must snatch Mike Wallace.

    While New England touts a powerful offense, Tom Brady relied heavily on Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski last year.

    And sure, those guys are phenomenal. But Tom Brady has been without a downfield threat since losing Randy Moss in the 2010 season.

    Enter Mike Wallace.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers decided against slapping the franchise tag on the now-restricted free agent, thrusting him into the market.

    But the price for the receiver is high—attaining Wallace will require coughing up a first-round draft pick (and some big bucks).

    Luckily, the Pats have just the capital required; New England enters the 2012 draft with two first- and two second-round picks—and plenty of cap space.

    Here are three reasons the Patriots should splurge for Mike Wallace.

Mike Wallace Is a Proven Player

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    Mike Wallace has proven himself on an NFL field. He has racked up over 3,000 receiving yards in his three-year professional career, including a career-best 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010.

    And No. 17 leaves little room for surprise, as Wallace has yet to miss a game.

    We know what Brady-to-Wallace might look like, and we're high on the image. But despite the fact we all agree Wallace would look good in a New England uni, people wonder whether the wideout is worth burning a first-round pick over.

    Let me break down the opportunity cost of ceding that first-rounder to attain Wallace.

    Sure, there's the possibility the Pats draft the next Jerry Rice with that pick, but history says otherwise.

    Second to quarterbacks, wide receivers give scouts the most trouble when predicting who will transition smoothly from college to professional-level play—and who will continue to excel in the NFL.

    Many college players don't have experience with press coverage. Others won't be fast enough to get separation in man coverage.

    Further, the Pats have historically done a poor job drafting at that position.

    ESPN Boston columnist Mike Reiss breaks down New England's shaky track record:

    Not since the second-round pick of Deion Branch and seventh-round heist of David Givens have [the New England Patriots] struck gold at the [wide receiver]. That was 2002.

    Misses include Taylor Price (third round, 2010), Brandon Tate (third round, 2009), Chad Jackson (second round, 2006) and Bethel Johnson (second round, 2003), with the Jackson and Johnson selections magnifying the struggle because the Patriots aggressively traded up to secure them. Three times, there have been game-changing receivers selected shortly after the Patriots' pick -- Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace in '09, Green Bay's Greg Jennings in '06 and Arizona's Anquan Boldin in '03.

    Given the uniform difficulty of drafting a wide receiver, and New England's decade-long string of bad guesses, the Patriots should take the bird-in-the-hand approach with Wallace.

    They're running too thin at receiver to take a risk on a rookie. With Wallace, the Pats know what they're getting and still have picks to spare.

Wallace Possesses the Three Key Components Needed at the Position

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    Wallace possesses three key qualities that the Patriots lack at wideout.

    At 26 years old, he is still in his salad days. The Patriots receiving corps, in contrast, is headed over the hill.

    Franchise player Wes Welker brings 30 years of wisdom to the field, while Chad Ochocinco, who the Pats have discussed keeping, brings 34.

    With age comes declining speed. What receiver could compensate for his elder teammates' faltering paces?

    Mike Wallace.

    At the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, Wallace clocked a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. Wallace is a speed demon indeed, and the Pats can utilize that.

    Though Brady has recently fallen in love with his short game, it's going to take more than short slant routes and out routes to win another Super Bowl.

    The Patriots need to regain a deep threat, and Wallace will be their downfield guy.

    If New England's offense adds No. 17, its weapons would be so diverse that defenses would have nightmares weighing whom to cover.

The Move Doles a Blow to an AFC Foe

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    There's nothing like stripping your competition of its best receiver.

    While the Miami Dolphins' trade of Brandon Marshall means little to Pats fans, swiping Wallace from the Steelers would send ripples through the AFC.

    Unfortunately, Patriot Nation doesn't just hate the Steelers—it fears them.

    It was the Steelers who snapped New England's 21-game win streak in 2004. And those same Steelers also won two Super Bowls in what was supposed to be the Patriots' dynasty decade.

    Pittsburgh has been to the playoffs seven times in the last decade, and they were one of three teams to beat the Super Bowl-finalists last season.

    There's a reason New England cheered for Tim Tebow in the Wild Card Round in the playoffs—they dread playing Pittsburgh at all costs.

    If the Pats could snag Pittsburgh's best receiver, New England will be rewarded with an instantly milder AFC schedule.