Massaquoi is a 6’2″, 210 pound receiver who was a 2nd round pick out of Georgia in 2009. He has 4.51 speed and has caught 118 passes for 1,745 yards yards and seven touchdowns in his NFL career, all with the Cleveland Browns. He caught 17 passes last year but missed some time with hamstring and knee issues. He signed a one-year, minimum salary deal with the Jets per Jason at OTC.
After the jump, a review of Massaqoui’s career and observations from having looked at film from the past four seasons to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Mohamed Massaquoi?
Massaquoi was a good college player at Georgia, where he was one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets, catching 58 passes as a senior. At the combine in 2009, he picked up an injury, but still put up some good numbers which he bettered at his pro day. He posted a 4.51 forty time, a 36.5-inch vertical, a 127-inch broad jump and good numbers in the short and long shuttle. Cleveland selected him with the 50th pick and he played out his four year rookie deal with the team.
In his rookie year, Massaquoi got a great opportunity for playing time when the Browns traded Braylon Edwards to the Jets. He led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions, averaging a career-best 18.4 yards per catch and establishing himself as a big play threat. He even had two 100-yard games, which hasn’t happened since. However, he did only catch 39% of the balls thrown his way. In his second year, he improved his catch rate to 53% and had a career-high 36 catches, although his yards-per-catch average dropped by a full five yards. In 2011, his numbers dropped slightly and then in 2012 he lost playing time to injury, starting just five games.
Before joining the Jets on a minimum salary deal, he had been with the Jaguars, signing a two-year, $5.6m deal, but caught just one pass (against Dee Milliner) in the first two preseason games and was cut.
118 catches, 1,745 yards, seven touchdowns
14.8 yards per catch
46% catch rate
Two carries for minus-6 yards
Two fumbles (lost), one teammate’s fumble recovered
Nine career tackles – none since 2010
Six offensive penalties committed
One pass attempted (29-yard touchdown)
25 20+ yard plays and five 40+ yard plays
Based on all the footage watched, here was what Massaquoi brings to the table, divided into categories:
Usage – Massaquoi has played in the slot more and more over the course of his career. As a rookie, it was less than 10% of the time. The following year, that went up to 13%, then 18% in 2011, before peaking at over 50% last year. That may be a product of the fact he was getting fewer and fewer starter reps, but it seems that he is capable of producing from in the slot or out wide.
Deep threat – Massaquoi has decent size and has been able to get deep separation over the course of his career, but the amount to which he has been targeted deep has been reducing ever since he entered the league, as has the success the Browns managed to have in finding him. As a rookie he was targeted 33 times more than 20 yards downfield, but that reduced to 18 in 2010, then 11 in 2011 and only six times last year, of which all six were incomplete. In 2010 and 2011 he caught four each and in his rookie year, he caught nine, with three for touchdowns. Would that be due to him getting older (he is still only 26) and no longer capable of doing that? More likely is that it’s just a product of his role and maybe the respective abilities of the quarterbacks he’s been saddled with.
Blocking – Blocking doesn’t look like a strong area for Massaquoi. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and shows a willingness to block, but isn’t often put in a position where the play depends on his blocking to function and when it does, he can struggle to maintain his blocks in space. Only one of Massaquoi’s six career penalties was committed while blocking.
Routes – Massaquoi’s route running is pretty sharp. He runs good slants, out patterns and hitches, all of which should be staples of this year’s offense. In order to get deep, he displayed some solid double-moves, as well as just pure speed.
Hands – Despite his low catch rate, the most drops Massaquoi has ever had in a season was five. He only had one in 32 attempts last year. Looking back over the drops he’s had over the course of his career, many of them were excusable because the pass was thrown low or behind him. He has had some concentration drops though and had a tendency to look up before securing the catch when he was younger. He also has a tendency to let the ball get in on him rather than snatching it out of the air. The low catch rates are partly due to having so many low-percentage throws downfield (68, of which he caught 25%). However, he caught a respectable four of 11 in 2011 and still only had a 45% catch rate. Of course, the quarterbacks haven’t been that accurate, but even though his drop numbers are low, you’d like to see a much higher catch rate than he’s had so far in his career. (Ben Obomanu, another deep threat, has a 57% catch rate, for example). Despite these things, he’s more than capable of leaving his feet to make a diving grab or going up to get it in a crowd. He also hasn’t fumbled since 2010.
Yards after the catch – Massaquoi has been below average in this area over the course of his career. This probably stands to reason, given that he catches a lot of passes that were thrown a long way through the air. Massaquoi averaged 4.4 yards after the catch per reception as a rookie and 4.1 the following year. In 2011, it dropped all the way to 2.4 – 7th worst in the league for receivers with a 25% snap count or higher. However, in 2012, he was actually 12th in the league for anyone with more than 30 targets (6.3). That’s another sign of how his role – and the Browns offense in general – changed to one where he’d be catching passes closer to the line of scrimmage and making extra yards. Interestingly, Massaquoi broke seven tackles in 2009 and 2010, but none since then, per PFF.
Special Teams – While Massaquoi has nine career tackles, most of these were on defense following turnovers. He has not contributed much on special teams over the course of his career and doesn’t return kicks. If he makes the Jets, his role will be to catch passes.
Demeanor – Massaquoi is just like most receivers in terms of celebrating his catches or appealing for a flag. There was one example where it went too far – he caught the go-ahead touchdown in the last minute of a 2011 game against Miami but then got a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration, which easily could have contributed to them losing (but didn’t). There didn’t seem to be anything too over the top about his on-field attitude and there don’t appear to be any examples of off-field issues.
Injuries – This is something else that has affected Massaquoi more and more as his career has gone on. He played every game as a rookie, being placed on the injury report just twice with a shoulder issue. In 2010, he missed one game with a head injury but that was the only time he was listed. In 2011, he missed two games with a concussion, but was listed several times over the course of the season with foot and ankle issues. Finally, last year, he missed seven games in total, initially dealing with a hamstring problem and then landing on injured reserve after hurting his knee.
Massaquoi’s career has evolved strangely over the course of his four years in Cleveland. He’s missed more and more time with injuries, his numbers have been trending downwards and he’s been going deep less and breaking fewer tackles. Still, he has improved his catch rate and reduced the number of drops last year, while also setting a career best for average yards after the catch.
With the struggles Cleveland has had over the past few years, you could be forgiven for thinking that a simple change of scenery could turn things around again, but that obviously didn’t work for him in Jacksonville and it’s not like he’s coming to an organization where things will be any easier for him (with the media spotlight and low expectations, etc).
For whatever reason, Massaquoi has evolved from a dynamic young player into more of a pedestrian, possession-type receiver over the past few years. Part of that was due to him having to fit in with the Browns’ other deep threats who were younger and more one-dimensional (much like Chaz Schilens in Oakland). Also, the Browns play their own version of the west coast offense and that kind of role was obviously what was required of him. Playing for Marty Mornhinweg might perhaps afford Massaquoi more opportunities to stretch the field, so it will be interesting to see if he’s still capable of that.
Massaquoi had a couple of nice catches in his Jets debut and will probably get some decent playing time today as they try to get him comfortable with the system. I’m not totally convinced his roster spot is secure yet, but if he does make the team, he’s shown some good ability and that he is capable of being productive.