Advanced stats: Tannehill better fit for Mike Wallace than Big Ben
Mike Wallace is the NFL's top deep threat, and Ryan Tannehill was far more accurate on deep throws last season than Ben Roethlisberger. Advanced stats suggest the second-year pro will take full advantage of Wallace's elite speed.
Mike Wallace got a sweet free-agent deal from the Dolphins: Five years, $60 million, with $27 million guaranteed.
Now that he’s catching passes from a second-year pro who threw more interceptions than touchdowns, rather than a two-time Super Bowl winner, what kind of production can we expect?
Advanced stats from Pro Football Focus suggest Ryan Tannehill is a great match for Wallace’s skill set. Much better, in fact, when compared to Ben Roethlisberger of 2011-12.
Wallace is the NFL's top deep threat, and Tannehill was far more accurate on deep throws.
On throws targeted 20-plus yards downfield, Tannehill ranked seventh in the NFL with a 43.1 percent accuracy rate. (Drops count as accurate throws).
Roethlisberger ranked 29th, continuing his decline in that category since 2009:
2009: 53.6 percent, 2nd in NFL
2010: 46.3 percent, seventh
2011: 33.8 percent, 26th
2012: 31.9 percent, 29th
In this excellent breakdown, CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco showed two instances that should have been long Wallace touchdowns last year. Big Ben underthrew Wallace on one play and dumped it off to the fullback on the other.
Wallace does more than run go routes; he can turn short slants and screens into big plays. But his greatest strength is his ability to fly past corners.
Tannehill and Roethlisberger each threw downfield (20-plus yards) only 10.5 percent of the time last season, which ranked 26th. Joe Flacco led the NFL by throwing downfield 17.3 percent of the time.
Tannehill, a 24-year-old with a big arm, did not possess a deep threat last season. Look for his downfield attempts to skyrocket as Miami tries to take advantage of Wallace’s elite speed. Wallace averaged 17.2 yards per catch in four years with Pittsburgh, scoring 32 touchdowns. He has 21 catches of 40-plus yards in the past three seasons.
Of course, Wallace must demonstrate more consistency. He admitted to a lack of focus last season, making six costly drops.
Analysts differ on the wisdom of paying Wallace so much. He got the biggest deal in free agency.
But if Tannehill performs like he did last season, when he was accurate on 22 of 51 long throws, the Dolphins will be far more explosive. They could even get their money's worth from Wallace.
Keep your eye on everything NFL by following Larry Hartstein on Twitter: @LarryHartstein.
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