Can Browns WR Massaquoi make an impact?

Posted Aug. 22, 2011 @ 7:01 p.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

Everyone knows the top dogs in fantasy football, but it's the midtier players, those taken in the middle to end of a draft, who win or lose championships. One of those players is WR Mohamed Massaquoi, and the Browns' No. 1 wideout has yet to stand out after two years in the league. It's not for a lack of trying; he wants to learn, grow and become great. Can he do anything with a new head coach who's implementing a West Coast offense, an offense that is receiver-friendly?

Browns president Mike Holmgren says his objective with the Browns is to make sure he, the general manager and the head coach are on the same page, working in the same manner and moving in the same direction. Holmgren's bread and butter is the West Coast offense, so there should be no surprise that the background of new head coach Pat Shurmur is the same.

Shurmur, previously with the Rams as offensive coordinator, improved the offense and added to his résumé with the superb job he did with rookie QB Sam Bradford. He took the offense from 32nd in 2009 to 26th in 2010 with Bradford as a starter and little else but RB Steven Jackson. He is a protégé of Andy Reid's, and Reid is a protégé of Holmgren's. Shurmur has a relationship with Browns general manager Tom Heckert from their days with the Eagles, and his late uncle, Fritz Shurmur, coached with Holmgren. Shurmur comes in with quarterback experience, having worked with Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb prior to Bradford. Shurmur will serve as his own offensive coordinator.

No one has ever questioned Massaquoi's want and willingness to learn, to win and to be a great player. His first two years were spent under an unproven regime that knew losing more than winning, but he entered 2011 as the No. 1 wideout.

Massaquoi reported to camp at the end of July with a chipped bone in his foot but will begin running now that he's out of the walking boot with no setbacks. Regardless, he hasn't practiced or played, but the team says it expects him back and in uniform for Week One.

Until he can practice, he won't learn the offense and will struggle to develop rhythm and chemistry with QB Colt McCoy, a must in the West Coast offense. It's an efficient offense that goes through the quarterback but needs receivers to run sharp, precise routes with the ability to fight for yards after the catch. Until he can do this, he has minimal value.

At this point the team is looking at Joshua Cribbs and Brian Robiskie as starters, with rookie Greg Little backing up Cribbs but looking to overtake a starter by next year. Most rookies struggle in the West Coast offense, and Little has not had a great camp so far. That means there's still an opportunity for Massaquoi not to lose his starting job.

Adding to that, the quarterbacks last year showed much love for the TE position, and that will continue this year. Massaquoi is already behind, especially in developing the trust of McCoy, but he's been running in a pool and will start running sprints this week.

Why bother with him? Because I eventually see Massaquoi owning one of the starting spots based on his skills and talent but mostly because of his desire. During the lockout he worked with a set of receivers who have nearly 20 Pro Bowls between them. He worked with the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, Lions' Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, Patriots' Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco, and the Steelers' Hines Ward.

Massaquoi has never had a quality mentor at his position, and I view this as the same opportunity Sidney Rice had when he worked with Fitzgerald and others before his breakout season. It's an opportunity I would imagine in Visa's "priceless" commercials — you just can't put a price on it. He learned how to study film from them, as well as the following: 

Massaquoi has enough talent and desire to learn and take these skills and transfer them to the field of play. Despite a new offense and realizing a huge breakout season is not likely, he is in his third year, a time when wideouts begin to understand the NFL and its speed and tempo.

He's also a great pickup come draft day. He's rarely going in any drafts and, when he is, his ADP (average draft position) is 210 overall, the 79th receiver taken. That puts him in Round 18 in a typical 12-team league, which means you give up minimal value but gain solid upside.

Robiskie is the only wideout with a lock on a starting job. All wideouts are behind the learning curve, and as a result of that, I just expect Massaquoi's desire and NFL experience to win the job. In larger leagues with rosters of 18 or more, I'd draft and stash him. Even if you don't draft him or miss out on him, he could wind up on the waiver wire after a frustrated owner drops him. You know better now!

I view Massaquoi as a sleeper this year, with his best value in PPR (point-per-reception) leagues. He can flourish in a West Coast offense, and while this year you shouldn't expect a breakout, I believe he can have a dynamic second half of the season. I believe at that point he'll be able to fill your No. 3 fantasy slot consistently — at least in PPR leagues. I expect mixed results from all the skill position players on the Browns during the first half of the season. Even if you don't own him, watch him and prepare to pull the trigger by waiver-wire pickup through the midway point.