Yeah, I didn’t think I was going to write this post either and yet here we are in training camp and Mike Wallace is still a no show in Pittsburgh. Of course, I’m on vacation which means I will be away just when the news breaks and Wallace has signed and is back with the team just to make this post look silly. Overall, I think the holdout is a vast conspiracy to really muck up my wide receiver rankings this year but since I can’t prove it, I have to move on and examine the guy who should benefit if Wallace stays away and that man is Emmanuel Sanders.
Emmanuel’s 2011 season could not have gotten off on worse footing than it did last year. I mean that quite literally. He entered camp last year having had off-season surgery on both of his feet and was limited to only 11 games in total during his sophomore season due to dings and dents. It’s really hard to play a sport in general with mucked up feet – you can replace that ‘m’ with an ‘f’ if you’re feeling saucy – let alone at a position like wide receiver where jumping and cutting are the name of the game. In fact, if you google ‘2011 fantasy football sleeper Emmanuel Sanders’, you can see just how much love there was for him going into the season. Heck, even we got in on the fun last year care of one of our many mulleted friends. Man what a difference a year makes. Of course we know the story. Wallace went on to get all the fantasy glory and Emmanuel struggled to stay on the field so much he couldn’t even outproduce his 28 catch, 376 yard rookie season. Thankfully for Emmanuel, it’s 2012 and it could be his year to shine.
Now I don’t want to rehash our original argument from 2011 but some things bear repeating that simply haven’t changed. Wallace is just a little bit taller, a little bit bigger, a little bit faster and has a little bit more vertical than Emmanuel. Even if you add those little bits together, they don’t get real big. We are looking at a player who – given the offensive scheme put in place – should have the ability to step in and make an immediate impact as long as he gets playing time. Seeing as it’s his third year – usually a good year for receivers as Wallace can no doubt attest to – there might be a big reason the Steelers are so hesitant to spend all that money on Wallace. Emmanuel makes for a far more affordable receiver for 2012 and may make Wallace a trade chip rather than a franchise staple.
Overall, I’m going to have a hard time giving a projection on him seeing as I don’t know whether we see Wallace in a Steelers uniform or not. It’s not to say Emmanuel can’t be productive with Wallace on the field seeing as Pittsburgh is a pass-first offense but he would clearly be a 3rd option on a field that already features Mike and Antonio Brown if Wallace does re-sign. So with that, I’m going to hedge as much as possible so that you think I have more waffles than a house of pancakes. Though I originally had him down for about 40 receptions and 520 yards to go with 3 touchdowns, I’m gonna do some inflation based on a possibly Wallace-less world. Oh and if they do re-sign Wallace, just go with my original numbers. Toldja I’d hedge!
2012 Projections: 55 receptions, 990 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns