Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi once labeled Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace the fastest player he has ever seen on tape. Wallace's career average of 17.2 yards per reception ranks fourth among active receivers. Since entering the NFL four years ago, Wallace leads the league with 27 receptions of 40-plus yards.
No deep threat takes the top off a defense quite like Wallace.
The criticism on Wallace is that he's not a complete receiver, doesn't run a full route tree and is unreliable as a go-to target. That hasn't proven to be the case with the Dolphins.
Dolphins quarterbacks also have noticed on film that Wallace is more than just a vertical "go" route specialist.
"What was impressive to see was what he can do with the ball (on short patterns)," Matt Moore said, via the Miami Herald. "Everyone talks about the deep routes, but Ben Roethlisberger would sometimes get him the ball quickly and just let him go."
The Pittsburgh Steelers frequently used Wallace on quick screens and slants. With one missed tackle, he's a threat to hit paydirt. According to ESPN.com's KC Joyner, Wallace led the NFL two years ago in average yards per target on throws of 10 yards or less.
ESPN analyst and ex-NFL coach Herm Edwards recently parroted the canard that Wallace is a one-dimensional receiver who needs to learn routes, leading film buff Ron Jaworski to retort, "He can run patterns!" Dolphins cornerback Richard Marshall attested that Wallace "runs better patterns than some might think."
Before Todd Haley installed a quick-hitting, dink-and-dunk offense with the Steelers last season, Wallace was fourth in touchdown rate and first in yards per reception among all receivers over the past decade. As one of less than a dozen NFL receivers capable of drawing double teams and still producing elite numbers, Wallace could be the most important pickup of the 2013 offseason.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.