The addition of Mike Wallace to the Eagles roster is an interesting signing. This move has an undeniable impact on the short-term value of the Eagles other wide receivers.
Mike Wallace vs. Torrey Smith
Wallace and Smith are both speed mavens who are both primarily utilized in the deep passing game. Wallace boasted 4.33 speed (99th percentile) when he entered the league vs. Smith’s 4.43 (86th percentile). In 2017 Wallace averaged 14.4 (24th in the NFL) yards per reception while Smith averaged 12 yards (61st in the NFL) per reception. Their average depth of target (aDOT) was similar in 2017 with Wallace averaging 13.5 yards and Smith averaging 12.9 yards. This is where the similarities end between Wallace and Smith. Bluntly stated, Wallace is a better NFL and fantasy receiver.
During Torrey Smith’s seven-year career so far he’s averaged 87 targets/43 receptions/707 yards/5.5 touchdowns per season. Wallace has had a more dominant career during his 9 seasons averaging 104/60/897/6.6 per season. Career averages don’t necessarily speak to how good players have been in the recent past. So with some assistance from Brando Lee Gowton let’s review the player’s last two seasons.
Last 2 seasons
Mike Wallace: 124 recs, 1765 yards, 8 TD (14.2 Y/R)
Torrey Smith: 56 recs, 697 yards, 5 TD (12.4 Y/R)
Wallace is set to make $2.5 million in 2018 while Smith will make $5M.
Howie does it again. #Eagles
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 22, 2018
Before we look further at the impact on the football field, let’s take a second to applaud Eagles (de facto) GM Howie Roseman. Roseman was able to trade away Torrey Smith along with his $5 million cap hit. In return, he got a serviceable-to-good cornerback in Daryl Worley. He then turned around and spent $2.5 million on a receiver that is better than Smith in every measurable category. Roseman is essentially playing 3-D Chess while most of the NFL is playing Go Fish.
Wallace has had a better career and has produced better stats over the last two seasons as well. Wallace finished as the WR43 in 2017 and Smith as the WR92; there’s no argument I can find that Smith is better than Wallace in any aspect.
The signing of Wallace should put a halt to most if not all talk of a Mack Hollins breakout in 2018. After trading Torrey Smith to Carolina, many assumed that Mack had secured the starting outside receiver role for the Eagles. The addition of Wallace would seem to preclude that from happening, at least for one more season. Hollins was at best the fourth option for targets before the Wallace signing. Now you might forget Hollins is even on the team most weeks.
The more important question that Wallace’s addition raises is how will this affect the fantasy stats for Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz. While Wallace is a better receiver than Torrey Smith and the Eagles do utilize 11 personnel on 65% of their offensive plays I can’t envision Wallace significantly eating into any of the big threes target shares. Ertz, Jeffery, and Agholor monopolized 62% of the targets for the Eagles last season.
In 2017 Jeffery led the Eagles in targets, touchdowns, and finished 3rd in receptions and 2nd in receiving yards. Jeffery then re-signed with the team this offseason and is the presumed WR1 for the Eagles. Last offseason the Eagles shipped off their former 2nd round draft pick Jordan Matthews to hand over the starting slot receiver role to Nelson Agholor. Zach Ertz has now exceeded 74 receptions and 816 yards each of the last three seasons and is one of Carson Went’s favorite targets. It’s hard to envision Wallace would be able to step into the offense and upset the balance that played a part in the Eagles going 13-3 in the regular season.
Instead, Wallace will slide into the deep threat role that Smith manned last year which garnered Smith a 12.2% target share. The Eagles do have some room for growth in passes attempted, they finished 13th in pass attempts in 2017. However, there’s not a lot of room to do so. Only 44 attempts separated the Eagles 13th place finish and the Giants who attempted the most attempts in the league with 608. In Doug Pederson’s two seasons as the Head Coach and offensive play-caller, the Eagles have finished 10th and 6th in rushing attempts per game. This indicates the Eagles won’t suddenly abandon the run in year three. Unless there’s an injury to either Nelson or Jeffery the best you can hope for out of Wallace is a low-end flex play or a solid best ball option.