Last week, Steeler rookie WR Mike Wallace had 7 receptions and 102 receiving yards on the road vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers lost the game, but the rookie served notice that he just might be a player. I was impressed enough to scoop him up in my FFL, even though I think the Steelers are at the softer spot of the 2009 schedule and are likely to run the ball more. I think Wallace is about to do some special things. Here’s why:
Wallace’s 7 catch, 100-yard production has only been matched by a handful of rookie wide receivers over the past 6 years. If the line of demarcation is five or six catches, the lists are entirely different. I was looking for the number that seemed to be the best indicator of rookies breaking through. Since 2003, approximately 200 wide receivers have been drafted in the NFL. Coming down with 7 grabs isn’t easy. Only a handful of players have done it. That list includes, but is not limited to:
- Calvin Johnson. Game 11 (2007). 7 catches, 83 yards and a touchdown.
- Ted Ginn, Jr. Game 16 (2007). 7 catches, 53 yards and a touchdown.
- Anthony Gonzalez. Game 5 (2007). 7 catches, 71 yards.
- Mark Clayton. Game 10 (2005). 7 catches, 86 yards.
- Reggie Brown. Game 16 (2005). 7 catches, 77 yards.
- Lee Evans. Game 15 (2004). 8 catches, 92 yards.
- Larry Fitzgerald. Game 10 (2004). 7 catches, 92 yards.
The list, however, of players who have managed to grab 7 balls AND reach 100 yards in a rookie season is short — and SWEET.
- Anquan Boldin. Game 1 (2003). 10 catches, 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hello world! Boldin is arguably one of the most underrated receivers in the league. He is the active leader in receiving yards per game. His numbers track very closely with those of Larry Fitzgerald (in terms of catches, yards and touchdowns), but he is not as widely known or respected — except by defenders in the NFL.
- Andre Johnson. Game 2 (2003). 7 catches, 102 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Michael Clayton. Game 6 (2004). 8 catches, 142 yards. Clayton, a former LSU standout was highly regarded out of college and after his rookie campaign. Since then, he’s been slowed by injuries, a stint in the Gruden “dog house” and other issues. After his rookie season, he started 10, 9, 4, and 9 games respectively. He began 2009 healthy and with a big-armed QB. He responded with 5 catches for 93 yards vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
- Marques Colston. Game 8 (2006). 11 catches, 123 yards and 1 touchdown. This game was sandwiched around a 6 catch, 163 yard, 2 touchdown showcase and a 10 catch, 169 yard showstopper. Colston, a 7th round draft pick out of tiny Hofstra College (NY) burst on the scene, but lost out on Rookie of the Year honors to Vince Young. Colston missed 3 games that season.
- Dwayne Bowe. Game 4 (2007). 8 catches, 164 yards and 1 touchdown. Another LSU product, Bowe has been a high-level performer since being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. His performances over years 1 and 2 closely parallel that of Detroit’s more celebrated Calvin Johnson. The sky is the limit for Bowe.
- Laurent Robinson. Game 15 (2007). 7 catches, 114 yards, 1 touchdown. Robinson was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. (Can you imagine Robinson, Roddy White and a healthy Harry Douglas?) He is currently paired with Donny Avery on the St. Louis Rams. Note that Robinson is the only person on this list whose breakout performance occurs at the END of the season. He can play.
- Eddie Royal. Game 1 (2008). 9 catches, 146 yards and 2 touchdowns!! Royal announced his presence with gusto last season. Drafted in the 2nd round (42nd overall), the diminutive wideout from Virginia Tech served notice he’d be catching balls all season long.
- MIKE WALLACE. Game 3 (2009). 7 catches, 102 yards.
None of us know what the future holds for Mike Wallace, but he is in some very heady company.