Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace Is a Top-10 Receiver

Richard SantamariaCorrespondent IIAugust 18, 2013

Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace Is a Top-10 Receiver

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    So far this offseason, there has been plenty of negativity surrounding the Miami Dolphins' prized free agent, Mike Wallace, up until his brilliant exhibition performance against the Houston Texans.  

    In the game, the ex-Steeler caught a 33-yard pass that should have been a touchdown had Ryan Tannehill placed it in a better location.  Wallace followed that with a nine-yard touchdown reception.

    The "one-trick pony" tag was placed on the speedy receiver often after he signed a five-year contract with Miami worth $60 million.  In April, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told The Finsiders that Wallace was better than football pundits were giving him credit for.

    More recently, the criticism has been related to the slow-developing chemistry between Tannehill and Wallace.  Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald claimed the two "need to connect more in practice."

    Based on average salary, Wallace's $12 million a year ranks third among all NFL receivers, trailing only Calvin Johnson ($18.813 million) and Larry Fitzgerald (15.75 million), according to spotrac.com.  The truth is Wallace is only guaranteed $27 million, an average of $5.4 million a year.

    Is Wallace a true top-10 receiver?  I will now argue he is, using his free-agent value as a guide.  This simply means I am not looking at careers but instead at each receiver's current value.

    If every NFL wide receiver were a free agent, how much interest would Wallace draw?  Where would that interest rank him?

     

2013 Free Agency

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    Mike Wallace was clearly the most sought-after receiver in 2013 free agency.  Wallace's best asset is his speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds during the 2009 NFL combine.  

    The Mississippi standout's second-best attribute is his age.  Wallace just turned 27 on August 1, meaning he is heading into his physical prime.

    Along with his speed and youth, Wallace possesses decent height (6'0") and weight (200 lbs).

    Wallace's price was higher than that of Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola.

    According to The Miami Herald, Wallace's father claims the Minnesota Vikings offered the former Steeler even more than Miami's $60 million.  The Vikings settled for Jennings who signed a five-year, $45 million deal.  Jennings is similar to Wallace in build but is slower and older, poised to turn 30 in September.

    Wallace's most important attribute is his ability to stretch defenses, which is essential for a true No. 1 receiver.  For a No. 2 receiver, elite speed is a bonus while crisp routes and sticky hands are a must.

    Bowe fits the bill for a No. 2 receiver with good size, standing at 6'2" and weighing 220 pounds, but has moderate speed.  The LSU standout is also two years older than Wallace.

    Wes Welker is ultra-productive but as a 32-year-old slot receiver, no one was offering more than the Denver Broncos' $6 million a year, not even the New England Patriots.

    Amendola has been plagued by injuries and has nothing on Wallace.  The Texas Tech product is smaller, slower and even older than Wallace.  In his only full season (2010), Amendola caught 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns.

Veteran Receivers

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    Andre Johnson has had a great career, including last year. He hauled in 112 passes for 1,598 yards and four touchdowns.  Despite this, the University of Miami star turned 32 this past July.

    A report by NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggests Johnson has lost a half-step.

    When comparing their first four seasons, Mike Wallace has more receiving yards (4,042 to 3,953) than Johnson and nearly double the touchdowns (32 to 17).

    What about that doesn't say No. 1 receiver?

    While I would take Johnson in his prime, Wallace is currently a better receiver, and if they were both on the market, we would see that.

    The Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith has had a brilliant career despite his stature (5'9") and size (185 lbs).  Smith is special because of his speed, but even in his prime, he wasn't as fast as Wallace, running the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds in the 2001 NFL combine.

    Smith is currently 34, and his game lags behind Wallace at the moment.

    Another ex-Hurricane, Reggie Wayne, had a solid 2012 with 106 receptions, 1,355 yards and five touchdowns.  Wayne has similar size to Wallace, but with less speed and will be turning 35 in November.  The decision here is a no-brainer for any NFL general manager.

Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant

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    Brandon Marshall is an elite possession receiver who has a career average of 12.7 yards per catch.  In his four-year career, Mike Wallace has averaged 17.2 yards per reception.

    Let's forget about fantasy statistics such as points per reception.  Wallace stretches defenses in a way that Marshall will never be able to do.  Miami fans know Marshall's shortcomings too well.  The Central Florida standout will put up gaudy numbers in pass-happy offenses but is less of a game-changer than Wallace.

    Marshall also brings emotional baggage such as his well-documented personality disorder.

    Dez Bryant could be Marshall's twin, a big, physical receiver who is slow and has off-field issues that make him a time bomb.

    Bryant's 40-yard dash time was 4.52 during Oklahoma State's 2010 pro day.

    The DeSoto Police Department reports that in July of 2012, Bryant's mother claimed that the Dallas star "hit her across the face with a ball cap, pulled her hair, tore her shirt and bra, and repeatedly struck her."

Younger Receivers

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    Victor Cruz has become a household name, amassing 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns in the last two seasons for the New York Giants.  Despite his performance, Cruz remains a slot receiver, and there are reasons for it.

    Because of his average speed, Cruz went undrafted.  In the University of Massachusetts' 2010 pro day, Cruz ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds.  The Minuteman ran the 40 again at Boston College and improved his time to 4.47 seconds.

    Cruz' quickness and ability to elude defenders was not apparent to scouts, and the Giants caught lightning in a bottle.

    The Giants recently gave Cruz a five-year extension worth $43 million, which was criticized by NFL.com's Jason Smith.

    Cruz put up great numbers in one of the league's top passing offenses but is not a No. 1 receiver.

    DeSean Jackson has speed in the Mike Wallace range, running a 4.35 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.  Jackson averages a Wallace-like 17.5 yards per reception, but that is where the similarities end.

    Jackson is smaller than Wallace, standing at 5'10" and weighing 175 pounds.  Jackson is also less consistent.  Wallace has more touchdowns (32) in his four seasons than Jackson in his five (23).

    Randall Cobb is becoming a fantasy darling because he will be part of the dynamic Green Bay Packers offense led by Aaron Rodgers.  The truth is that Cobb is smaller and much slower than Wallace.  His shiftiness is better suited for the slot position.  Again, no No. 1 receiver here.

     

Roddy White

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    Roddy White has had a stellar career but will turn 32 in November.  While not as slow as Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall, Roddy White is no burner by NFL receiver standards, running a 4.46 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham's pro day in 2005.

    White's inability to stretch defenses is the reason the Atlanta Falcons paid such a heavy price to bring in the speedy Julio Jones.

    Again, White has been a strong NFL receiver, but would he garner more interest than Wallace if they were both current free agents?  I believe not because Wallace is a true No. 1.

My Rankings

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    1. Calvin Johnson

    2. Larry Fitzgerald

    3. A.J. Green

    4. Julio Jones

    5. Demaryious Thomas

    6. Vincent Jackson

    7. Mike Wallace

    8. Roddy White

    9. Andre Johnson

    10. Dez Bryant

    In his four-year career, Mike Wallace has averaged more than 1,000 receiving yards a season and eight touchdowns.  Wallace accomplished this on a run-first team.

    Wallace is among the fastest receivers in the NFL and does not have to catch the ball to impact a game.  He just turned 27 and is heading into his prime. 

    The Miami Dolphins are fortunate to have signed Mike Wallace this offseason.