A deadly deep threat wideout or a one-trick pony? When discussing Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson, this question pops up quite a bit. When they are performing at a Pro-Bowl level and putting up stats, they are discussed as some of the most feared weapons in the NFL. But when they are lazy, hurt, or unproductive, we write them off as simply guys who can run in a straight line. But this dichotomy is often the product of a system, as evidenced by DeSean Jackson resurrecting his career under the tutelage and offense of Chip Kelly.
In 2013, Mike Wallace’s career path took a nasty turn on a hopeless, misfit Dolphins offense run by Mike Sherman. But with ex-Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor running the show, it’s worth pondering if Wallace can go from zero to hero in a similar fashion to DeSean Jackson. Can Mike Wallace find his way into fantasy footballers’ hearts once again in 2014? Let’s explore.
Measureables: DeSean Jackson vs. Mike Wallace
To find out the plausibility of this comparison, we need to see if Mike Wallace has the talent and physical ability to pull off the “DeSean Jackson role” in an Eagles-style offense. Here are their combine stats:
Player Height Weight 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad DeSean Jackson 70 175 4.35 1.53 2.52 4.19 6.82 34½ 122 Mike Wallace 72 199 4.33 1.43 2.45 4.27 6.90 40 129
Wow. Wallace blows Jackson out of the water in nearly every category. Most impressively, Wallace ran a faster 40 yard dash while being over two inches taller and 30 lbs. heavier than Jackson. As evidenced by his vertical and broad jump, Wallace also has much more lower body explosion, and his size makes him more durable than Jackson. There should be no concern about Wallace’s physical ability to imitate Jackson- he’s the superior athlete.
2013: A Tale of Two Seasons
Before 2013, DeSean Jackson had never proven he could be a true high-volume number one receiver. He had never topped 62 receptions or 1,156 yards and had more than 6 receiving touchdowns only once. Durability was an issue too- before 2013, he hadn’t appeared in 16 games since his rookie season.
But Chip Kelly came to town, and changed all of that. He schemed DeSean Jackson open, lining him in in the slot a career-high 26% of the time. Jackson responded with a resounding 82/1,332/9 receiving line and finished as the 12th best receiver (WR1 territory) in Apex leagues last season despite a 6.12 PPR ADP in 2013 according to MyFantasyLeague.com.
Mike Wallace, on the other hand, set a career low in touchdowns and yards per reception. He did this while actually setting a career high in receptions, which is more of a testament to ex-offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s incompetence than a silver lining to a frustrating 2013.
Sherman used Wallace as a clear-out receiver to make room for underneath passes, lining him up on the right side 90% of the time while overseeing an offensive line that didn’t give Wallace nearly enough time to get open deep.
Reasons for Optimism: What’s Changed in 2014
We’ve been over the fact that Mike Wallace has the physical talent to pull off the DeSean Jackson role in a Chip Kelly offense. But will he have the situation and environment in which to make it happen? All signs point to that answer being yes.
Most importantly, Mike Sherman is out and Chip Kelly-disciple Bill Lazor is in. He was part of the offensive scheming that helped DeSean’s career reach new heights in 2013 and it’s very likely he’ll employ Wallace in a similar fashion. He’s already told us he’s going to be moving around the formation and will be schemed open. And best of all, he seems excited to be playing football again.
In fact, an argument can be made that Wallace’s ceiling is much higher than Jackson’s. Not only is Wallace more physically gifted, his previous career highs are much better than Jackson’s: he’s caught double digit touchdowns once, and caught 70+ passes for 1,193+ yards twice- all things Jackson never accomplished until he received Chip Kelly’s help in 2013.
Like Jackson in 2013, Wallace’s current ADP is at the 6th/7th round turn- after guys like Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. If his ADP stays in the 6th round, he’s going to be drafted to a lot of my fantasy teams. I suggest you do the same.