NFL Preseason is always an exciting time for all football fans. The difficulty for most followers of American’s new pastime is figuring out what if any of the “fake football” has any impact on what we can expect during the regular season. Getting general impressions from the preseason is OK, but there are plenty of players and teams who have shone during the games that don’t count only only to flop in the games that really matter.
The flip-side is also definitely true: players who don’t do well in camp sometimes erase any doubts as soon as the season gets underway. One thing though that is for sure, you want your team and your players to be in camp getting ready. Unfortunately for Mike Wallace and the Steelers (among others), that isn’t the case. There are rumors that Wallace will report any day now, and his holdout may have no lasting effect. If you’re a Steelers fan though, the longer he’s out the more apprehension you have to have about his ability to jump right into a brand new offense and perform right away.
Which brings us to the player that I think makes an incredible fantasy football sleeper and could be in line to benefit the most from the Steelers hard-line stance with Wallace: Antonio Brown. Brown had a great second-half of last season and become one of Big Ben’s favorite targets. After an offseason where the Steelers didn’t draft or sign any significant Wide Receiver help, Brown is definitely the top pass-catcher in camp and could open the season as a true #1 if Wallace fails to show up soon.
Last season, Brown had a breakout campaign hauling in passes for 80 yards or more in six of the team’s last ten games. In the second half of the season, Brown out-gained Wallace 677 to 393 and drew more targets over the whole season 124 to 113. Both receivers were over 1,100 yards for the season, and Wallace’s higher fantasy point totals are mostly due to a 8-2 touchdown advantage for “60 Minutes.”
According to average draft position from MyFantasyLeague.com, Wallace is currently going in the middle of the third round (35) while Brown goes about two rounds later (54).
I’m not saying that at this point that Antonio Brown is a better receiver or even that you should pick him ahead of Mike Wallace. Wallace has the physical tools to be a #1 WR and dominate defenses and is much more of a Red Zone target. However, until Wallace gets in camp I would much rather get Brown two rounds later than grab Wallace in round three. Brown is the 24th WR going off the board in drafts and I would be thrilled to grab him as my third WR in 10 team leagues and would be very happy with him as a second WR in 12 team leagues.
Antonio Brown comes with fewer question marks and way more upside, so look for him at the beginning of the fifth round. As far as Mike Wallace goes, he’s a high-risk gamble that could pay off if he gets in camp and can pick up Todd Haley’s pass-heavy offense. I’d take Wallace in the fourth but make sure to have a deep receiving corps behind him in case his situation with the Steelers drags on.