Tylan Wallace is looking forward to making plays against teams that could've drafted him much sooner.
The Ravens' rookie wide receiver, who was widely projected as a second- or third-round pick by pundits, has motivation to defy his doubters after sliding into the fourth round as the 131st-overall pick.
A torn ACL suffered in November of 2019 changed the trajectory of Wallace's career. It didn't help that his twin brother, Tracin, retired from football in 2019 after tearing his ACL for the third time. Just like it's hard to separate Tylan and Tracin when they're off the field, it was hard for some teams not to worry about Tylan's future health, knowing what had happened to his brother.
"I could see that, for sure," Wallace said of that fear affecting his draft stock. "Obviously, I don't know exactly why [or] what happened right there, but I could definitely see that as a reason. I'm just happy that Baltimore took a chance on me."
After Baltimore picked Wallace, he and his brother shared a long, emotional hug. When they were coming out of high school, Tylan required that any school who wanted him also recruit his brother. Now Tylan will carry the torch to the NFL.
Wallace could have taken a safer approach to the 2020 college football season by opting out, continuing to rehab his knee, and preparing for the draft. Instead, he returned and played 10 games, finishing with 59 catches for 922 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 15.6 yards per catch.
"Just too good of a player for us not to take him," General Manager Eric DeCosta said.
Just as he did before suffering his injury, Wallace thrived in 2020 making contested grabs and gaining yards after the catch. No wide receiver in college football made more contested catches than Wallace's 46 since 2017.
While he is not the biggest wide receiver (5-foot-11, 194 pounds), he can be the baddest. Think of former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who loved running over defensive backs as much as running past them. Wallace brings that kind of macho mentality to the field. He may not talk as much trash as Smith, but he can still hurt a defensive back's feelings.
"I think a big thing for me is my ball skills – whether it's locating the football, high pointing it, running through it – and also, my physicality," Wallace said. "I think that's one thing that separates me in this draft class, for sure."
Wallace had a breakout sophomore season in 2019 with 86 catches for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018, establishing himself as a wideout who could torment defensive backs. Yet, Wallace still watched 17 wide receivers hear their names called in the draft before the Ravens called him.
There were many talented players at his position who weren't coming off ACL surgery. In fact, many scouts called the 2021 draft historically deep at wide receiver. Wallace's stock was victimized by that reality, but you can trust he won't forget being snubbed until Day 3.
"Going into it, I thought I'd go a lot earlier, but obviously, everything happens for a reason," Wallace said. [extra space]"I'm just happy that I got picked by Baltimore."
There should be some terrific battles on the Ravens' practice field between wide receivers and defensive backs. By drafting Rashod Bateman in the first round, Baltimore has added two targets who believe the ball belongs to them once it leaves Lamar Jackson's hands. Wallace spoke on draft weekend about how much he is looking forward to playing with Jackson.
"It's still crazy to me, it's still surreal to me that I'm going to be actually catching passes from him," Wallace said. "He's an inspiration to all the guys, especially young guys like me. So, being able to go up there and being able to just hang out with him, build that chemistry with him, I can't wait for it."
While Bateman is being projected as a wide receiver who can make an instant impact, imagine if Wallace barges his way into the rotation as well as a rookie? That sounds like a plan to Wallace. It took a while on draft weekend for Wallace to find out where he would be playing. Now that he knows, he's not playing around.
"I couldn't be at a better place," Wallace said. "Really, I'm just excited to get up there and get to work."