The NFL Draft is right around the corner. But for the next few days, I’ll be laying the tracks for the RotoExperts Hype Train to talk about some players who may end up being buzzed-about names heading into Fantasy draft season. This week, I’m focusing on Mike Wallace, a wide receiver in his prime making the move from the Dolphins to the Vikings. What does the change of scenery and offensive scheme mean for the moody Wallace? Let’s find out.
What a difference two years makes. In March of 2013, Mike Wallace, then a free agent, decided to sign his new five-year, $60M contract with the Miami Dolphins, a team that coveted the speedster based on his very successful tenure with the Steelers. It was reported at the time that the Minnesota Vikings were also interested in his services, and allegedly offered more money (though the “no income tax in Florida” thing probably more than made up for it), but Wallace chose the warmer confines of LeBron’s South Beach. Fast-forward to exactly 731 days later, and Wallace was traded to those same Vikings for a fifth-round draft pick in the 2015 rookie draft. That’s pretty shocking for a guy who still produced ten touchdowns and was within six receptions of his 2013 career high of 73 last season. Wallace, at 28, is still a very, very solid receiver with a lot to offer. He has straight line speed, great hands, and can stretch a defense much more effectively than Greg Jennings, Minnesota’s leading receiver last year with 59 receptions and 742 yards.
If we are to assume that Adrian Peterson comes back better than 75 percent of his pre-suspension self, and we assume that Kyle Rudolph stays healthy and performs marginally well at the tight end position, and we assume that Teddy Bridgewater continues to advance from his rookie season that saw him complete 64 percent of his passes, and nearly top 3,000 passing yards in just 13 games, then can we assume the Vikings will be a Wild Card contender in the NFC in 2015? That’s hard to say. It’s been just over ten years since the Vikings sent one of the best players, and hands down best receiver in their franchise history, to Oakland. Randy Moss was another notably difficult receiver with unspeakable talents and physical gifts, and save for the one blip of Sidney Rice’s 2009 season with over 1,300 yards, he was the last Vikings receiver to top 1,000 in a season. Could Wallace, who hasn’t topped three digits in yardage since 2011, be the next? I am by no means claiming Wallace is the heir apparent to Moss as the Vikings’ best receiver. Rather, I am saying that I think Wallace adds to the recipe they’ve got stewing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and could pay some nice dividends.
It didn’t seem like Wallace and Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill were ever on the same page last year, and that notion culminated in what many reports have as Wallace asking out of the last game of the season – a rather ignominious end to such a promising young star’s move to make the Dolphins a legitimate contender in the AFC East. With the Vikings and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Wallace should see his number called a little more often, and in the way he likes it. It can’t be overstated that Adrian Peterson and Wallace are perfectly suited (at least if we’re talking about them in their primes/top form) to play off of one another. The Vikes’ receiving corps will be rounded out by the talented, but unproven Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, and Cordarelle Patterson, all of whom will also benefit from Wallace lining up as the X-receiver and keeping safeties honest every play. The price the Vikings paid to get Wallace isn’t much; it could pay for itself in one season if they manage to make the playoffs, frankly. I wouldn’t count on that happening. The Vikings have the 12th toughest schedule according to CBSSports.com, so don’t expect a change from 2014’s 7-9 to any more than a one win improvement to get to .500.
Hype Train Outlook: Probably accurately (un) hyped, though I say there’s value here. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com’s ADP Rankings, Wallace is being taken at the very end of the sixth round as the 72nd ranked player overall. Looking over the list, I’d say I like him more than each of the five receivers taken before him between the fifth and sixth rounds: (in order) Jeremy Maclin, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, Keenan Allen, and Victor Cruz. If it did shake out that way, and Wallace is sitting there in the tail end of the sixth, I love the pick. My prediction for Wallace is a solid year, though no career bests: 71 receptions, 960 yards and eight touchdowns. I think he could become a very dependable performer in this offense, and would love to see him harness the talent he possesses and put himself back in the conversation with other top-tier receivers, as he did in 2011. As far as the drafting goes, I would totally be fine reaching in the back of the fifth or the early part of the sixth round if you feel confident about your running backs, and have an elite receiver through the first four or five selections. Wallace is more of a high-upside WR2 and should be drafted as such, but his upside in this offense as being a true WR1 for his own team should elevate him above all of the aforementioned receivers being selected prior to him, with the possible exception of Maclin. Let’s see if 2015 is the year Mike Wallace quiets the critics, and helps his new team bounce back from a frustrating 2014.