When the Steelers shipped Santonio Holmes to New York, they did so, at least in part, with Mike Wallace in mind. Regardless of off-field problems, the team had to be confident Wallace would be able to step up and fill the receiver's spot opposite Hines Ward.
Obviously, there are a few problems facing Wallace over the first few weeks of the season, most notably the absence of Ben Roethlisberger. Byron Leftwich should be passable, at the very least, so that shouldn’t be a main concern for fantasy owners.
No matter who the quarterback is, the Steelers are going to try to pass the ball in order to free up the running game. Yes, they may focus on the run a little bit more, but they are going to have to try and stretch the field.
In his rookie campaign, Wallace proved that he has the ability to be a game changer. While he caught just 39 passes, he averaged 19.4 yards per reception, the most among any receiver with at least 35 catches.
Holmes was tied for second in the league with 21 catches of at least 20 yards in 2009 (Andre Johnson led the league with 22), so the big plays have got to come from somewhere.
Hines Ward continues to be a solid, steady receiver, but at 34 years old he clearly is on the downside of his career. He’s going to make a big play now and then (he had 15 catches of at least 20 yards last season), but he should be seen as more of a possession receiver. He did have 56 catches that resulted in first downs last season.
The team brought back Antwaan Randle El, but he has never emerged as an explosive force as hoped. He’s never had more than 10 receptions of over 20 yards in a season. He’s never caught more then 53 passes. Only once has he had more than 601 yards.
The Steelers need a weapon with big-play ability, and clearly the man who provides that potential is Wallace. I’m not going to suggest he reaches 100 catches, 1,500 yards, or 12 touchdowns. In fact, given his big-play striking ability, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have some huge games while also being somewhat silent in others.
However, at year’s end, would you be shocked to see him with around 70 catches for 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns? That’s about where I’d put him, making him a receiver I want to own. He’s currently the 28th wide receiver off the board (74th, on average, overall). I have him ranked 24th (check the link below for my wide receiver rankings ), meaning while I’m comfortable taking him as my second wide receiver, I’d love to have him as my third, so he’s a player I’ll be targeting in the late sixth or early seventh rounds.
How about you? Is Wallace a receiver you are targeting on draft day? How early would you select him?
Make sure to check out our 2010 rankings: