Tylan Wallace Fantasy
When the NFL Draft rolls around, some team is going to straight-up steal, Tylan Wallace. And it won’t be petty theft either. No, it’s going to be the kind of grand larceny that has us scratching our heads and wondering how we missed it all happening right before our eyes.
Less than 18 months ago, Wallace was midway through his junior season and had already notched 53 receptions for 903 yards and eight touchdowns through eight games. Then, during a late October midweek practice, he suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. At the time, those numbers had him on pace for 86 receptions, 1,467 yards, and 13 touchdowns. While that projection might sound overly optimistic, it was nearly a mirror image of the 86-1,491-12 stat line he had burst on the scene with as a sophomore the previous season. That campaign saw him finish as a Belitnekoff Award finalist and launched him onto the shortlist of the nation’s premier college receivers. Now the in-progress encore had him rocketing up draft boards, with many pegging him as a mid to late first-round pick if he were to declare after the 2019 season. The knee injury derailed that plan, but it was about to become just one in several obstacles Wallace would need to overcome. Without him, the Cowboys’ passing game faltered and they turned to such a run-heavy approach behind running back Chubba Hubbard and quarterback, Spencer Sanders, that Wallace still finished tops on the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns for the year, despite missing the final five games.
At a Power Five conference school like Oklahoma State, players normally have access to top-tier medical care and rehab facilities, at least under normal conditions. With the COVID-19 pandemic came facility shutdowns across the country, leaving Wallace to rehab at home on his own, just a few months after his surgery. By his own account, that program included squatting with 40-pound boxes of cat litter and jogging the local trails. It was hardly an ideal scenario, but he made it back in time for the 2020 opener and remained the team’s leading receiver last season. This time though, the stats were far less impressive, as in addition to trying to get back to full-speed from his injury, Wallace endured some truly brutal quarterback play by Sanders and freshman Shane Illingworth, not to mention an offense that had completely changed its complexion. In his breakout sophomore season, the team regularly approached or topped 40 passing attempts per game, but by 2020 it had morphed into a much more methodical team that leaned on the running game and the defense, topping 35 passing attempts just four times.
Oh my god pic.twitter.com/AJDCpGPHAF
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 26, 2019
At first glance, Wallace doesn’t pop on film the way some guys do. His routes are smooth and he creates plenty of separation, but he doesn’t appear overly explosive, and that prompted plenty of questions about his top-end speed among scouts. His 4.39 40 yard time at the EXOS combine should help answer them and checks off one of the more popular concerns. What was never in doubt were his hands. They are elite, allowing him to not only win at the catch point but to pluck the ball in stride, even at times on poorly thrown passes. Wallace also has a bit of a mean streak and doesn’t shy away from contact, at the catch point, with the ball in his hands, or as a blocker. He’ll enter the league with some limitations as a route runner, not necessarily due to his ability, but because of the way he was utilized in college. Ultimately, he should be able to play both inside and outside and is a player I expect to improve quickly at the next level with a strong chance to surprise and evolve into one of the top three or four receivers in this class.
Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace is a damn particle accelerator.. ++ explosiveness off the line, out of his breaks & after the catch. 86-1,491-12 in '18. pic.twitter.com/3Hqgx6KFzm
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) August 26, 2019
- Height: 5’ 11”
- Weight: 193 lbs
- Age: 21
On tape, Wallace’s speed is deceptive because he tends to look rather effortless in creating separation and despite not quite measuring six feet tall, he’s a bit of a long strider. It was part of what prompted the questions about his true speed, which we now know is plenty fast for the NFL. While he ran a somewhat limited package of routes in college, Wallace shows plenty of room for growth in that department. He’s quick getting in and out of his breaks and deceptively smooth setting up and running by defensive backs. That, combined with his ability to create separation and win at the catch point suggests that he should eventually be able to line up at multiple spots as a pro. He has the swagger and toughness you love to see in an outside receiver, and it shows up both in contested catch situations and as runner after the catch. He has excellent hands that are both strong and quick in snatching the football out of the air and he displays an exceptional sense of timing and the ability to routinely win in jump ball situations. He’s also a willing blocker and showed competitiveness and a “my ball” mentality throughout his college career.
— Receiver School (@ReceiverSchool) August 31, 2019
While Wallace is excellent at the catch point and not afraid of getting physical with defensive backs, he did struggle from time to time with bigger and stronger defenders, something he’ll need to improve upon as a pro. This is particularly prevalent in press coverage, where he gets hung up and thrown off schedule at the line more than he should. Ultimately, he’s going to need to do a better job of recognizing when he should be physical with defensive backs and when he should lean on his speed and ability to separate to win. Concerning his route running, Wallace still needs some time to develop since he ran a limited tree in college and overwhelmingly ran out of the right side of Oklahoma State’s formations. Despite being very smooth, he can also get complacent. Due to the way he was used in the Cowboys offense, it’s possible that perceived complacency was merely a function of his role. Wallace can also fall in love with his own ability at times, trusting his hands and hops to make last-minute adjustments for spectacular catches rather than simply repositioning his body to secure an easier one. Finally, as with any receiver coming off a significant injury like an ACL tear, there is a minor health concern here. Even more so given the limitations of the past year from a rehab perspective. Additionally, fair or not, even after returning mostly to form for his senior season, Wallace’s injury raises a few more eyebrows than normal since his twin brother and teammate, Tracin tore his left ACL three times at Oklahoma State and was eventually forced to call it quits as a football player.
Wallace’s college highlights are chock-full of impressive catches and splash plays, but some aspects of his game are still a bit raw with room for continued development. I’m inclined to believe that between the knee injury and the changes to Oklahoma State’s offense in his absence, Wallace was purely a victim of circumstance as he finished out an otherwise impressive college career. Assuming he’s healthy, I’m betting there’s every reason to believe that the player we saw pile up 139 catches for 2,349 yards, and 20 touchdowns over the 21-game stretch that made up his sophomore and junior seasons, is the real Tylan Wallace. That player was an alpha dog and the type of receiver that could take over a game.
I’m certain that by draft day we’ll have grown tired of the Steve Smith comparisons, albeit the comp is a fair one in that a similar type of fearlessness and physicality seems to permeate Wallace’s college tape. That said, he’s a more polished receiver already and if he can make progress in running a full route tree and improve at beating press coverage then I think he has a chance to see significant snaps by the second half of his rookie season. I’m also not underestimating how important the landing spot for Wallace is going to be. While he can be an asset for a more conservative precision passing offense because he does a nice job of creating separation and has such excellent hands, I don’t see that as his best fantasy fit. If Wallace can land with a team whose quarterback has a little more of a gunslinger mentality and is willing to take chances downfield and provide him opportunities to make plays, then I’m going to be very excited about both his short and long-term fantasy prospects.
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Warren has been playing fantasy football in any number of formats for over 20 years, sometimes much to the chagrin of his wife and daughters. For better or worse, ahead of the 2014 NFL season, he began sharing his opinions and analysis through writing and eventually added yammering away on podcasts with anyone foolish enough to let him in front of a microphone. He is a long-suffering Jets fan, well-documented Paxton Lynch hater, and an admitted grammar snob.