The Old College Try
I'm a big fan of OKState WR, Tylan Wallace. With the caveat that a knee injury he had in college might create a medical flag, I have a 1st round grade on him. My comparison for him is Adam Thielen. Another way of describing Wallace is that he's the WR you would get if you took 50% of Robert Woods and combined it with 50% of Cooper Kupp. He is an outstanding football player. Most importantly, based on current rankings, it seems very reasonable to think that he could still be available to the Rams at slot 57.
In the 2016 preseason, there was buzz in Vikings camp about a potential breakout WR who was a former Division II player. ESPN did an article about him, saying he could have as big an impact on the offense as 1st round rookie, Laquon Treadwell. Just one year earlier, Norv Turner, the OC for the Vikings, proclaimed that this unheralded player "was far and away our best receiver." This was a surprisingly definitive declaration considering that former Packers star, Greg Jennings and former 1st round pick, Cordarrelle Patterson, were both on the roster. When the first depth chart was released, the small school guy did indeed beat out Treadwell for the starting spot opposite of Stefon Diggs. He held off the competition and remained the starter when the regular season began. The WR the Vikings didn't even need to use a pick to acquire had beaten out the 1st round star, Treadwell. Obviously, the small school WR I'm talking about, who was poised to star in 2016 for the Vikings was.... Charles Johnson.
Adam Thielen just wanted to be a college athlete. Golf, baseball, basketball or football, he didn't have a preference. He would have taken whatever opportunity opened up. When he got a scholarship offer from a Division II school, Minnesota State, he jumped at it. The scholarship was for $500. It wasn't even enough to cover the cost of his books.
In college, Thielen didn't have a single 1,000 yard receiving season until he was a redshirt senior. His own college coaches thought so lightly of Thielen that when the Vikings went around and talked to area colleges to see if they had any NFL talent, the coaches told the Vikings that they had no NFL prospects. Consequently, the Vikings never sent any scouts to watch any of Theilen's games during his senior season. Thielen was so far off the radar that his name didn't even appear in Blesto's national scouting reports for all the NFL teams. He was the very definition of a draft nobody.
Thielen decided he was going to give the NFL a shot. The longest of long shots. As a backup plan, he interviewed for a job with a dental equipment sales company. They laughed when he told them that he wanted to be an NFL player, but promised the he had job waiting for him if (and likely when) his football dreams fell through. Thielen paid a fee (about half the amount of his original college scholarship) to attend a regional NFL scouting combine in Chicago. He didn't have a personal trainer (no surprise), so his combine prep consisted of him workout out with one of his former college teammates.
In Chicago, Thielen ran 4.45 seconds in the 40. He did well enough to get an invitation to the Super Regional combine in Dallas. At the Super Regional, Thielen ran 4.49 seconds in the 40. He caught the eye of the Green Bay Packers and they talked to him on the field at Cowboys Stadium after the workout. Thielen was hoping that the Packers would draft him. The Packers did draft a 7th round WR that year. The WR they drafted was.... Charles Johnson. I remember Johnson from that draft. Unlike Thielen, Johnson was on the radar as a sleeper, because he was both big and fast. He ran 4.39 sec in the 40 and jumped 39.5 inches in the vert. He went to Grand Valley State University, which is in Michigan.
The Rams originally held a 7th round pick close to where Johnson was taken. The Rams traded away that selection as part of the deal to move up and take Tavon Austin. That year, the Vikings drafted a 1st round WR, Cordarrelle Patterson and a 1st round CB, Xavier Rhodes.
Not only did no team draft Thielen, no team signed him as an UDFA. Only 2 teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Vikings, invited Thielen to be a tryout player at their minicamps. If Thielen had been in the 2020 draft, he never gets into the NFL, because there weren't tryout players last year. He'd be selling dental equipment.
At the Vikings camp, Thielen immediately made an impression, performing well against Xavier Rhodes. He wasn't intimidated going up against a 1st rounder. The Vikings decided to sign him and bring him into OTAs and training camp. Thielen didn't make the final roster. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
Thielen made his NFL debut in the opening game of the 2014 season against the Rams. He was a special teams player that season. A couple weeks into the season, the Vikings signed Charles Johnson off of the Browns PS. The Vikings were Johnson's 3rd NFL team.
Cordarrelle Patterson was benched in the middle of 2014, well on his way to being a 1st round bust. The WR who replaced him in the starting lineup was Johnson, not Thielen. After that season, Norv Turner called Johnson the best WR on the team. In the following draft, the Vikings used a 5th round pick on Stefon Diggs. Johnson again was the starter to begin 2015, but he broke his rib early in the season. The injury opened the door for Diggs to emerge. Diggs started out well, but faded late in 2015.
To try to bolster a struggling WR group, the Vikings drafted Treadwell in the 1st round in 2016. In the 6th round of that draft, they picked German phenom, Moritz Bohringer, a huge 6'5'' tall and 227 pound athletic freak who ran 4.43 sec in the 40, had a 39'' vert, 4.09 sec shuttle and 6.64 sec (3 cone), an eye popping combination of size, speed and weight. Not to be forgotten was an underrated WR, Jarius Wright, who was a 4th round pick in 2012. Entering the year, Thielen was generally believed to be a special teams and backup type WR.
Johnson was slowed by a leg injury early in 2016. The door of opportunity opened and instead of Treadwell stepping through it, Adam Thielen seized the moment. He finished with nearly 1,000 receiving yards in only 10 starts, and led the team in receiving yards. Sam Bradford was the QB that year. Thielen was ranked by PFF as having the highest grade on "go routes" among all WRs in the NFL that year.
Today, the WR who had to pay his way into a regional combine has a $16 million per year salary. Charles Johnson is no longer in the NFL. Laquon Treadwell only has 750 career receiving yards. Cordarrelle Patterson is essentially a part time RB and KR. Moritz Bohringer has spent his entire career as a PS player and is trying to make it as a TE. Tavon Austin is currently a FA. Many other early WR picks from that 2013 draft have long since washed out. Two of them were made by Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
If Thielen had run 4.51 seconds at the Chicago combine instead of 4.45, would he be in the NFL right now? A person's life shouldn't turn on something so silly and dental floss thin, but perhaps that's exactly the reality of the arbitrary nature of pro football and the NFL draft.
5'11'' tall, 193 pounds, 32 5/8'' arms, 73.5'' wingspan, 9.5'' hands (Senior Bowl measurements)
Reportedly ran 4.39 seconds in 40 at EXOS pro day in late February. Oklahoma State reportedly timed him at 4.45 sec in the 40 in the past. the Pro Day for OKST is scheduled for April 1st.
Wallace ran the 40 in high school in 4.58 seconds. So, we'll have to see if he's really 2 tenths of a second faster than that now.
ESPN 67th overall (late 2nd to early 3rd)
CBSSports 51st overall (2nd round)
Tony Pauline (PFN) 49th overall (2nd round)
PFF 71st overall, 10th WR (3rd round)
TDN 78th overall (3rd round)
Sports Illustrated 6th ranked slot WR (3rd round). Ranked ahead of 7th slot, D'Wayne Eskridge, 14th slot Ihmir Smith Marsette (who SI has as a 7th round prospect), 12th slot Marquez Stevenson (also 7th round) and just behind Amari Rodgers the 5th slot (3r round).
Drafttek 52nd overall (2nd round)
Not ranked in Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 board.
PFN mock draft 66th overall.
Lance Zierlein 6.30 draft grade. Compared to Nate Washington (3rd round in 2001). LZ gave him a higher grade than Van Jefferson's 6.27 grade last year. LZ quotes an NFL assistant coach who said, "I'm telling you, this guy will be the next Steve Smith."
True Senior. Turns 22 years old in May. Name pronounced "Tie lin"
4 star recruit. Jumper in track, played center field and catcher in baseball. Ran the 100, 200, did long jump, high jump and triple jump in track. Says that playing CF in baseball helped him develop ball tracking ability and jumping background helps him excel in jump ball situations in football.
Very close to his twin brother, Tracin Wallace. Tracin was the better athlete growing up and likely would have become a star football player in his own right, but he had 2 ACL injuries in high school and a 3rd ACL at OKST. All 3 injuries were to the same left knee, ending his football career. Tracin joined the coaching staff at OKST. Tylan stopped playing baseball when his brother got injured in HS, because he no longer wanted to play without his brother.
Big Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant fan, growing up in Fort Worth.
Mike Gundy praises Wallace, calling him a high character and low maintenance person. In interviews, has positive personality, well spoken. After his knee injury in 2019, Wallace easily could have opted out and just focused on the NFL instead of playing in 2020, but he decided to play. He also picked up an injury late in 2020 and could have entirely skipped the bowl game. This would have been the much smarter decision from an individual standpoint. Instead, he stayed with the team and played in the 1st half of the bowl game, with the coaches saying they were going to limit his usage to try to protect his pro prospects.
Enjoys playing the game, competitive, good teammate. In one of the games I watched, there was a play where Wallace appears to be open, but the QB instead throws a bad pass intended for a different WR. It is incomplete and the team has to punt. Right after the play, instead of complaining to the QB about not getting the ball, Wallace appears to be giving the QB encouragement (maybe he was just telling him in a polite way that he was open.) Doesn't appear to have a diva attitude, even though he was by far the most talented WR on his team.
Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2018 after breakout 1,491 yard season.
2018 (13 games): 86 catches for 1,491 yards and 12 TDs
Was having another strong season in 2019, but tore his right ACL on a non contact play in practice.
2019 (9 games): 53 catches for 903 yards and 8 TDs
Had groin injury in camp one week prior to 2020 season opener. Late in the year, he catches a long TD pass and at the end of the play the CB drags him down from behind and either falls on his right leg or bends it and Wallace immediately grasps at his right knee as he's lying in the end zone. He celebrates the TD while lying on his back, then gets up and limps off the field, not returning. He didn't play in the next game either, but played part of the Bowl game to finish the year.
Was at Senior Bowl and impressed the first 2 days in practice, but held out of the 3rd practice day and didn't play in the game due to undisclosed injury.
2020 (8.5 games) 59 catches for 922 yards and 6 TDs
No visible difference in his athleticism and speed after his ACL injury. Didn't lose a step, appeared to be the same athlete. If he can really run about 4.4 seconds in the 40 at the Pro Day, this could really impact his draft stock, because he's not supposed to be a fast WR.
Tony Pauline (PFN) calls him dynamic, tough, sells routes and separates, adjusts to the ball and has outstanding hand eye coordination. As negatives, he calls Wallace a one speed runner who lacks deep burst and isn't a big body WR. Pauline says Wallace had a low drop percentage in college and reminds him of Brandon Aiyuk.
PFN's Senior Bowl report says Wallace was dangerous going over the middle, had great footwork, created separation, was explosive with the ball in his hands and was shooting up draft boards.
Per Sporting News, he was the 2nd best college WR entering the 2019 season, behind only Jerry Jeudy. He ranked ahead of players such as CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Justin Jefferson.
PFF named him the 13th best player who could have declared for the 2020 draft, but who returned to school and the 92nd best player in the country in 2019 (Terrell Burgess was 88th.) PFF named Wallace all conference in 2019 ahead of Jalen Reagor, who was a 1st round pick in 2020, the 21st overall selection.
Mixes up releases, good variety and depth to arsenal of moves.
Uses hands well at LOS to defeat jams. Excellent timing and accuracy, his hand eye coordination allows him to swipe and push away the CB's hands. Two hand swipe beats jam, nice separation on quick slant. Medium 3rd down, uses his outside hand to push away the jam and creates good separation on slant. Swipe defeats aggressive jam in press. Powerful 2 hand shove right into CB sheds attempt to jam.
Runs at outside toes of CB, sells outside release with subtle head fake, cuts inside up the seam, uses his outside hand to hold off the CB and establish position, then late separation as he looks over his shoulder for deep pass.
Sometimes pumps arms and high knees to create illusion that he's running faster than he really is, to deceive the CB.
Morse code feet. Steps with variety of tempo and stride length, slow, medium and quick steps, short or longer strides, making it difficult for the CB to mirror the release as he changes speeds.
Three smooth strides outside, then cuts sharply to the inside and creates separation. Outside fake turns CB around 360 degrees, wide open on slant. Skip step hesitation to outside, then breaks inside. Smooth strides, then suddenly he bursts into the break and the CB is on his heels, unable to drive on the route. As slot WR, freezes CB with first step, then surprising speed burst goes by CB, getting clean release off the LOS.
Ran limited route tree at OKST, but even on very basic stick routes, slants, comebacks and digs, he crafts the route well and generates an inordinate amount of separation that isn't built into the system. Many Air Raid WRs run those routes at a very elementary level. Wallace takes those same routes and makes them more effective.
Tight radius turns. Fluid hips. Can both explode in and out of break to snap route off sharply, but also can subtly change which way he is leaning so that without throttling down or changing speed he creates a window for the pass. Breaks on out route and digs are sharp, he doesn't round or drift into the break. Doesn't lean or turn his head early to give away the route and let the CB read and drive on it.
Short stick route. Some WRs just run 5 yards past the LOS and turn around. This can invite the CB to drive on the route and break it up or hunt for an INT. Wallace runs at the CB, then sells an outside release before sinking his hips and stopping on a dime. There are 5 yards of separation and he's only running a 6 yard route. Sells outside release, then immediate and sharp break inside on dig, swimming by as CB can't stay attached. Consistently creates nice windows for the QB.
Crafts routes, choreographs moves well. More dangerous deep threat WR than his expected 40 time would indicate. Able to gain leverage on CBs going vertical on deep posts, corners, go routes and deep fades. If he gets ahead, stacks the CB behind him to stay open.
Can separate at every point in the route, not just at the LOS. In the early phase, at the top of the route, or late, he knows how to free himself and try to make a play on the ball. Uses body to angle into defender like NBA point guard driving into the lane. CB all over him 10 yards from the LOS, pushing him up against sideline, WR retaliates by using his inside hand to push the back of the CB's shoulder, sending the CB flying by. Powers through jam as CB tries to push him into the sideline, then cuts into middle of the field and separates.
Mixes up both subtle and exaggerated head fakes to create double moves and disguise break point in route. Stop and go with head turn burns the CB on double move.
Subtle head fake, then goes inside on deep post. Uses outside hand to defeat attempt by CB to reroute him, speed bursts by the CB and is open, but QB messes it up.
Slot WR, wheel route and he sells an out by turning his head as if he's looking back towards the QB, then runs by the CB on the outside.
Head fake at top of route to outside, then cuts inside on deep post. Shows speed to go from 1 yard behind to 1 yard ahead of the CB, elevates and makes 2 handed grab, high pointing the football, 50 yard gain.
Doesn't panic in contested catch situations, comfortable when CB is right next to him. Uses his hand to hold them off then goes up to attack the ball. Fearless going over the middle of the field.
Maintains concentration on the ball in tight quarters. PFF says Wallace has by far the most contested catches of any college receiver since 2018 (even though he missed some games due to injury.) 4th down pass, jump ball thrown by QB. WR is not open, but CB jumps too soon, Wallace isn't distracted and comes up with the catch for a TD.
Circus trampoline acrobat in the air. Adjusts very well to backshoulder throws and off target passes that are behind him, wide or high. Makes catches outside the target area, reaching around and over CBs, jumping like a soccer goalie making saves in mid air. Extends arms and catches ball away from his body. Timing of his jump is excellent. Quickly tucks ball into body so that catch survives hit in air by defender in heavy traffic.
Some of Wallace's acrobatic catches while going over the middle, they remind me of Jarvis Landry at LSU. Almost made crazy circus catch going over top of CB and reaching for ball all the way on other side of CB's far shoulder. Made really nice catch high in air, but it didn't count for a TD, because it was a bad pass by the QB.
Reliable hands. Makes clutch catches in pressure packed moments of the game. Important 3rd down grab with momentum shifting to other team. Down by 7 points to Sooners, 1 minute left in the 4th quarter, 4th&12, ball on 24 yard line of OU. Cover 2 zone defense, he's the slot WR to the left. The entire stadium should know where the ball is going in this situation. Wallace gets the slot CB in zone to widen, helping to open the window for the QB, jumps up in the air at the 1 yard line and catches the pass. He's hit in the back by the safety as he lands in the end zone for a TD. On the 2 point conversion try, WR goes in motion from L to R. He runs basic out route and it is there, a good pass should win the game. QB throws the ball way behind him and WR has no chance at making the catch.
Plays more like he's 6'2'' tall, not like a shorter WR. Good red zone target.
Long 3rd down. Runs at middle of CB, then releases outside. Stacks the CB behind him, running halfway between the numbers and the sideline. Looking over his shoulder, he adjusts to the flight of the ball, using his hand on the shoulder pad of the CB to maintain late separation, then jumps and twists around in the air to high point the football, making a 2 handed catch as he falls backwards. He tucks the ball quickly into his body as he falls so that it doesn't come out when he lands.
Good body control. Adjusts when CB jumps inside and slips behind him instead of colliding with him. Able to tightrope through small creases to stay in bounds or squeeze between defenders as he runs his route.
Efficient and smooth movements. No wasted steps and excess body movements when running, cutting or reacting to the pass.
Sells outside release before pivoting inside for tunnel screen. Follows blocks perfectly and gets 18 yards on a 3rd&12 play.
Tucks ball in the proper arm after the catch whether on left or right side of field, not loose away from body. Stats say he has 3 career fumbles in 205 career receptions.
In 2019, had 13 broken tackles on 53 catches and 9.8 YAC per reception. There is a famous highlight play where Wallace catches a screen pass, lowers his shoulder and bounces off 2 tackles near the LOS, turns on the speed to pull away from the pack, runs down the sideline, stiff arms a defender, tightropes the sideline and shrugs off the final defender to score a 70 yard TD. With the ball in his hands, Wallace is like a faster version of Cooper Kupp.
Finishes runs going forward, with his shoulder pad lowered to take on defenders and get extra yardage.
Good Run Blocker
Willing blocker. He's like a stronger version of Robert Woods as a blocker.
Stalks defenders, good hand placements, gets to good blocking angles. If he needs to accelerate to get to his block, he'll run and try to get there. Intelligently lets go of the defender if they pull away from him, so that he doesn't run the risk of a holding penalty. Multiple times delivered physical punch on run blocks into defender. Not a soft or weak player without play strength.
Good effort to sustain blocks. On a critical 3rd&goal late in the 4th quarter, he's blocking near the pylon on a QB run and his ability to sustain that block allows the QB to get to that corner and score the TD.
He's setting the edge with a block on the CB. He sees that the TE gets delayed and is late climbing up to block the safety. Wallace hustles off of his block and tries to make a 2nd block by getting the S to cover for the TE. Really smart, heads up play.
Outside zone run to his side. WR slow plays the CB as if he's running a route, while he eyes the S. When the safety attacks downhill in run support, WR redirects and runs up to block the S. The extra space WR created by decoying the CB off of the LOS gives the RB time and room to juke past the CB. The block he makes on the S helps spring the RB for a big gain.
Held back by mediocre QB play and limited by his role in the team's scheme. His QBs missed him with some really bad throws, didn't see him when he was wide open or were very late on passes. Opponents sometimes gave him extra attention, because he was the top weapon. Caused CB to fall down, wide open for TD, but QB misses throw. Had chance at deep shot TDs, but QBs missed him. Rescued off target throws by QB and converted them into completions. Even with those limitations, he still averaged 109 yards per game over his last 3 seasons.
Complete WR. 3rd downs, red zone, deep balls, going over the middle, sideline grabs, jump balls, slot, outside, blocking, jet sweeps, he can do a bit of everything. Not a one dimensional player.
Not a big or naturally strong WR. If the CB can get hands on him at the LOS, they can reroute or delay him, pushing him wide or just getting in the way. Not going to intimidate or overpower smaller CBs.
Has to rely on technique and route running to win, because he's not a 6'4'' type guy or a 4.2 second speed burner. Like Robert Woods, the ceiling for Wallace is more likely to be along the lines of a number 2 type WR.
Beaten on some run blocks, because he's not big enough or he's not able to protect the blocking angle.
Not a super quick, shifty slot type WR like Cole Beasley. A tweener type WR that some teams might see as too small to be a prototypical outside WR, and not shifty enough to be a pure slot WR either. Other teams might see this as a positive attribute that makes Wallace versatile, because he can line up anywhere and do any WR task within the team's scheme.
Has Cooper Kupp type dropped passes. A few easy catches bounced right off his hands. One time over the middle, maybe he was peeking early at the safety about to hit him and took his eye off the ball. Hands are not "sticky". On some catches, the ball slides through his hands and he is catching the middle part of the ball, he has to double catch the ball or he quickly brings the ball into his chest to secure it. A couple of his double catches don't feel like they are clean catches, like he's fighting the ball. Hands not super quiet.
Overall, his catching ability is good, but there are some instances where he plays like a WR who has small hands. He's not one of those WR who has oven mitt sized hands with great grip strength. Not going to make OBJ type one handed grabs.
Slender build with concerning injury history. If Wallace gets hurt again, the WR he might resemble is Ryan Broyles, who was a 2012 2nd round pick (54 overall) by Detroit out of Oklahoma. Broyles had an ACL injury his final year in college. The best game of Broyles's career came his rookie season on Thanksgiving. Shawn Jefferson (Van Jefferson's dad) was Detroit's WR coach at that time. Broyles got more snaps that game, because Titus Young (Detroit's 2nd round pick in 2011) was suspended for behavior reasons. According to reports, Young deliberately lined up in the wrong spot on plays and got into an argument with Jefferson. Broyles had 126 receiving yards in an OT loss to Houston. In the very next game for the Lions, Broyles tore his other ACL. He never made an impact in the NFL after that point. Broyles was part of a string of disappointing early round draft picks for the Lions during this era. Not doing better in the draft was a key reason the Lions weren't more successful with Matthew Stafford at QB.
Acrobatic leaps can put him at injury risk as he twists and turns in the air and doesn't land squarely on two feet. Landed with his left leg bent awkwardly on a sideline catch attempt, lucky he wasn't hurt.
A couple times he slipped coming out of his break and stumbled, unable to make the catch or leading to near INTs.
Played in Air Raid offense. Almost always lined up on the right side of the field.
Has a small wingspan. Van Jefferson and Wallace both have about the same size hands and arm length. But, Van has a 77 1/8'' wingspan, while Wallace has only a 73.5'' wingspan. Robert Woods has an arm length and wingspan shorter than Wallace's.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Adam Thielen (Tryout player 2013, Vikings, Minnesota State Mankato.) 1st round grade.
Thielen was 6'1'' tall, 192 pounds, 4.49 sec (40 time at Super Combine), 4.49 sec (shuttle) and 36'' vertical.
We've seen many fast and big Air Raid WRs who put up big numbers in college struggle once they got to the NFL. I think the exact opposite is going to happen with Wallace. The NFL game is suited for what Wallace does well. He should become even more dangerous than he was in college. I think Wallace is going to cause substantial problems for NFL CBs.
Les Snead promised us that Van Jefferson will be another Woods or Kupp. And Snead is never wrong about such things, right? So, even if Wallace is available at 57, the natural impulse might be to say the Rams have zero need for this type of a WR. Do we really need 4 WRs who are all similar?
I think that line of thinking could be a big mistake. Woods has a nearly $16 million cap hit in 2022. In the last 2 years of his deal, his cap numbers are scheduled to be $18 million and $19.5 million. Cooper Kupp's cap numbers are both over $19 million in 2022 and 2023. Van Jefferson had all of 220 receiving yards last season. WR is such an important position, I don't know if there is such a thing as having too many good WRs. At one point, the 5 WRs for the Packers were Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. The year before that, when the Packers won the Super Bowl, Jordy Nelson was basically the 4th string WR. Nelson's best game in his first 3 years was probably in that SB victory over the Steelers. It was only the 2nd time that he had at least 100 receiving yards in an NFL game.
I don't know what almost all the rest of the draft pool looks like or what all the other WRs in this draft look like, but Tylan Wallace is a very good player and a better WR than normally is left by the bottom of the 2nd round. Cooper Kupp was steal for the Rams in the 3rd round. Wallace is an underrated sleeper and if he ends up going in the 3rd the way he's ranked on several boards, I think he could end up being a similar steal for some NFL team.