If, as expected, speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace departs Pittsburgh via free agency this offseason, the Steelers will be left with considerable uncertainty at that position heading into the 2013 season. Addressing that issue will have to be a priority for the team’s front office if it wants to jump start an offense that underperformed in 2012 and spark a return to the playoffs this coming year.
With Wallace gone, Antonio Brown will have to shoulder the burden of being Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver. It is not yet clear that he is ready for the responsibility. In two seasons in which he essentially shared that role with Wallace, Brown had a great year in 2011 and a very underwhelming 2012.
Taking on a bigger portion of the Steelers passing game without Wallace attracting attention from opposing defenses will be a challenge for the young wideout.
Brown’s promotion to the No. 1 receiver spot means Emmanuel Sanders will have to step up and become the Steelers’ second receiver, assuming Pittsburgh tenders the restricted free agent. Sanders had a very efficient season last year playing primarily out of the slot. In 2013, he probably will have to split wide more frequently. Whether he will have the same success from that position remains to be seen.
With an aging Jerricho Cotchery currently the team’s third option at wideout, the receiving corps is perilously thin. It is also unlikely to be as effective a weapon it has been in the recent past. Which does not bode well for a team whose rushing attack ranked among the worst in the league in 2012.
Given that Pittsburgh may not even have enough money to keep Wallace, it seems improbable that the club would find a suitable replacement for him in the free-agent market. Instead, the Steelers will have to reinforce their receiving corps through the draft.
The key for Pittsburgh in its search will be to find a wideout who represents the best value proposition among the available players.
Obviously, the goal with any draft pick is to get someone who can produce the most output on the field for the lowest price. But making sure every selection is a bargain is doubly imperative for an aging team like the Steelers that already have numerous high-profile veterans signed to hefty contracts.
With that in mind, the following is a list of college wide receiver prospects who offer the best value for money in the 2013 NFL draft.
It runs from least to most likely to be a cost-effective selection and is based on an analysis of each player’s performance on the field balanced against their likely draft position. The list starts with three wideouts the Steelers should avoid picking unless they plummet unexpectedly between now and draft day.