When Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins two years ago I got into a lengthy back and forth with a few people on Twitter when I proposed that Jarius Wright would probably be preferable to Wallace once contract amounts were taken into account. Someone in that exchange said that it was ridiculous to mention Wright’s name in the same sentence as Wallace. It probably was.
But on the other hand Miami definitely didn’t get as much out of Wallace as they would have hoped considering the amount of money they paid him. The interesting thing to me is that Wright actually showed flashes last year and yet the Vikings seem to disagree with me as well. They would rather have Mike Wallace on a big contract than try to get that production out of Wright.
In fantasy terms the Wallace trade has to be a plus for many of the actors involved. First, Wallace will get to play with Teddy Bridgewater and Norv Turner. Bridgewater showed promise last year and Norv has been one of the best offensive coordinators at generating big plays for receivers down the field (see Josh Gordon in Cleveland and Vincent Jackson in San Diego). I like Ryan Tannehill as a fantasy QB based on his rushing yards, but I think Bridgewater/Norv will likely be better for Wallace.
Okay, maybe in the preceding paragraph I should have specified that the Mike Wallace trade probably isn’t very good for Charles Johnson. It essentially means the Vikings aren’t going to give him a chance to be their WR1. But the trade has to be good for Teddy Bridgewater if for no other reason than that he has an additional weapon. Bridgewater will be short Greg Jennings in 2015 and while Jennings has played better than most think, he was still going to be a year older in 2015. In 2014 Bridgewater had some pockets of efficiency when throwing deep, specifically to the deep right side of the field.
But the trade is also probably a plus for Ryan Tannehill. For whatever reason Tannehill and Wallace just couldn’t connect in Miami. Maybe it was Tannehill’s fault, or maybe it was Wallace’s fault. I really don’t know. But at least the Dolphins can go in another direction and stop trying to shoehorn targets to a player that only really generated some fluky touchdowns in 2014. Kenny Stills showed enough promise in NO that it seems like he could probably pretty easily replace Wallace and might be an upgrade.
Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth by saying that Wallace is an upgrade in MIN while Stills is an upgrade in MIA? Maybe. If I am then it comes down to the potential that Greg Jennings maybe could still be better than Wallace.
While it’s true that Jennings has probably been a better receiver compared to Wallace at least in efficiency terms over the past two years, Wallace is about three years younger. That difference is meaningful to me. I think either the Vikings will figure out a way to involve Wallace in the deep passing game as a moderately targeted receiver, or if it’s not working they’ll probably go to Plan B which is likely another year of band-aid solutions involving Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright. But in terms of Wallace’s fantasy production I don’t think his usage is likely to top out at many more than 115 targets. That’s where Vincent Jackson topped out when he was in San Diego. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that Wallace could see usage approaching Josh Gordon’s 2013 level. That’s also about where Wallace has topped out in all of his seasons except 2013.
So to return to his career peak he’ll have to do it on efficiency. At 29 years old that seems like a longer shot. I just don’t think we’ll get a 1200 yard receiver on 115 targets. But considering that Wallace is currently being drafted in the WR36 range he could represent some marginal value.