An NFL wide receivers third season is often seen as his breakout season. That’s really not news. Let’s take a look at a few under-the-radar players who could live up this billing in 2011, and are therefore worth a late round flier:
Mohamed Massaquoi – Cleveland Browns
Over his first two NFL seasons he’s been viewed as the Browns top wide receiver, at times. What he has really lacked is consistency on the field, as well as a consistent quarterback throwing him the ball. Last season the Browns used Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Is it a wonder that the leading receivers were a tight end, Benjamin Watson–68 receptions and a running back, Peyton Hillis–61 receptions? Is it a surprise that no wide receiver had more than 40 receptions?
It was much of the same in 2009, when the team used Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson at QB and Massaquoi actually tied for the team lead in receptions with 34. The fact of the matter is, if the team does not find a trustworthy option to throw the ball it’s not going to matter who they have lining up on the outside. McCoy could ultimately be the answer but we’ll have to wait and see if they ultimately add someone in free agency (to date they have not).
Still, he has shown flashes in the past (games of eight receptions for 148 yards, as well as five receptions for 115 yards and one TD in ‘09). With the team morphing its offense to a form of the West Coast Offense, you would have to think there would be opportunities to produce. However, it all comes down to the QB play.
Louis Murphy – Oakland Raiders
A fourth round draft pick, injuries have helped to limit Murphy’s production. While he played in 14 games in 2010 he managed just 41 receptions for 609 yards and two touchdowns. However, who do you think the Raiders are going to go to, Darrius Heyward-Bey?
While Jacoby Ford also has upside, Murphy showed just how potent he could be early in the season when he combined for 11 receptions, 210 yards and a touchdown between Weeks two and three. In deeper formats he’ll be worth eyeing for sure.
Brandon Gibson – St. Louis Rams
The Rams were searching for wide receivers last season for Sam Bradford to throw the ball to and Gibson showed that he could be up for the task. He finished second on the team in receptions (53) and yards (620), despite missing the first two weeks of the season. What do you think could have been possible if he had been healthy early on and given an opportunity to develop a rapport with Bradford?
Over the final nine weeks of the season he never had fewer than three receptions, with his biggest performance coming in Week 10 when he went for eight receptions and 72 yards. With a full Training Camp (or what everyone gets at least) and a year under their belt, Gibson could easily take the next step with Bradford and become the go to receiver.
Considering how cluttered the situation is, with no one specifically jumping out as the potential go to guy, Gibson is as good a guess as anyone to have a breakout season.
Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
The biggest problem is that he’s a Patriot, honestly. Tom Brady spreads the ball all around the field, meaning how often is he going to target any one receiver? While Wes Welker will certainly get his looks, there are only so many balls to go around and many of them are not going to be thrown Edelman’s way…
Unless, of course, injuries rear their ugly head. The Patriots have always been able to find talent from within, meaning Edelman should be watched from afar, at least for now.
Brian Hartline – Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins need a wide receiver to step up and fill the WR2 spot across from Brandon Marshall. With Davone Bess better suited to be the slot receiver, Hartline appears to be the guy, and he certainly embraced the role when healthy in 2010.
Over his final four games (Week 9-12) he had 18 receptions for 328 yards, never having fewer than four receptions or 70 yards. Granted, you would like to see him find the end zone a little bit more (only one TD, which he scored in Week two), but that should come in time.
With Marshall drawing plenty of attention, you would think Hartline should be able to make some noise.
What are your thoughts on these five receivers? Do you think any could potentially breakout? Who are you eyeing?
Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s early rankings for 2011: