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Mike Wallace – Your Future Fantasy #1

At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Mike Wallace will never be confused for the big-bodied receivers that everyone is searching to be their real-life No. 1 in the NFL: your

Marshalls
, Mosses or Johnsons. However, Wallace possesses all of the ability to become a true number one receiver, both in the NFL and on your fantasy team.

The offseason has been quite a tumultuous one for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was charged with sexual assault and was subsequently suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season. Shortly afterwards,
Pittsburgh jettisoned Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to
New York, leaving the door wide open for Wallace to slide into

Pittsburgh
’s starting lineup.

Wallace’s 2009 rookie stats were as such: 39 receptions, 756 yards and six touchdowns. The yards per catch average equates to a gaudy 19.4, which was the highest total in the league, by nearly a full yard over second-place DeSean Jackson. The yardage put him third out of all rookie receivers, behind Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin, both of whom were the No. 2 receivers on their team.

With Holmes now in

New Jersey
, it leaves behind a giant hole for the Steelers to fill. Holmes was targeted 138 times out of 535 possible attempts (25.8 percent of

Pittsburgh
’s possible targets), which was eighth in the league as far as percentage of team’s targets (fellow wide receiver Hines Ward was slightly behind, at ninth). With a significant portion of the team’s targets, yards, and receptions (Holmes had a slash line of 79 receptions, 1,248 yards and five touchdowns in 2009) being shipped off to another team, there has to be someone on the team who will pick up the slack.

Wallace is your man to do just that.

Wallace is being counted on to take over the split end role in the Steelers offense, a role that he filled at Mississippi, where he was a top 5 receiver in the SEC. Last year, Wallace was targeted 69 times (12.9 percent of total targets). Expect that number to rise significantly this year. The Steelers are counting on Wallace to take up a bigger role in the offense, and he is one of the biggest reasons why they felt comfortable just giving a former Super Bowl MVP away for pennies on the dollar. While he still has some growing to do, particularly in his route running tree, he has all the raw skills and natural ability to become and grow into a better receiver than Holmes. Some may discount him as merely a situational deep threat and nothing else, but, as he showed in Week 3 (7 receptions, 102 yards), he certainly has the ability to run short and intermediate routes as well and will get the opportunity this year, with Holmes out of the picture and no other threats to his job.

Wallace compares favorably to Greg Jennings. With a similar body build, and many of the same strengths, including deep speed, yards after the catch, and soft hands. While he may not approach the stats that

Jennings
can put up this year, in the future, as the Steelers persist in their continued commitment to the passing game, Jennings-like, WR1 seasons may be in the cards for Wallace.

However, a problem may lie in the current quarterback situation. With Roethlisberger currently being suspended for more than a quarter of the year, Wallace and the rest of the

Pittsburgh
receiving corps may suffer as a whole to begin the season. Byron Leftwich is currently presumed to be the favorite to start the season at quarterback. Tampa Bay fans can attest to just how bad he was last year as the Week 1-week 3 starter, completing just better than 54 percent of his passes, with a 4-3 TD/INT ratio. However, Leftwich’s defining characteristic has always been his powerful arm, which only bodes well for Wallace, yet the same powerful arm is an extremely inaccurate one. In 2009, Wallace was targeted “deep” on 53.6 percent of his targets, highest in the league by far. While that number should come down as Wallace runs more and more underneath routes, the percentage of plays that he is targeted deep on should still remain high, as it is his forte.

Once Roethlisberger is reinstated, then the show should get back on track. Roethlisberger showed implicit trust in Wallace last year, as the no-second game-winning touchdown pass to Wallace against
Green Bay and Wallace’s performance in the tight Week 3 game against

Cincinnati
can attest to.

Wallace’s average draft position (ADP), according to Gridguru’s always fantastic Monday Morning Mocks (found only in your very own Shark Tank) is currently trending around 6.11. He is, by ADP, the 26th receiver off the board, putting him squarely in WR3 territory. However, he has the opportunity to become much more than that. Take the opportunity to pick him up now, when he’ll be at his cheapest for quite some time.

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