Camp Battles: Browns receivers
No Browns receiver has caught for 1,000 yards since Braylon Edwards in 2007
Mohamed Massaquoi worked with Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson in offseason
Greg Little's 6-2 height offers enticing target for Colt McCoy near the goal line
One of this month's most intriguing camp battles is in Cleveland, where the team has three contenders for the No. 1 wide receiver job. Returning starters Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie hold a slim lead over 2011 second-round pick Greg Little for the right to be Colt McCoy's go-to target.
For some fantasy owners, the easiest way to assess the situation would be to wipe all of the Browns receivers off their draft board. After all, no Cleveland wideout has reached the 1,000-yard mark since Braylon Edwards in 2007. And McCoy's inexperience and reported poor arm strength also are reasons for concern.
But new coach Pat Shurmur has promised to make the passing game a priority, and the team is committed to make do with the hand it's holding. At least one of the team's receivers will prove worthy of a fantasy roster spot ... but which one?
Why Massaquoi is the best choice: Massaquoi spent the offseason working with guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. "You see how those guys go about their business, how they work, how they're running routes and how they're adjusting to certain things and it's completely different," he told a reporter. Fantasy owners would like to see a bump in production from a player who has been targeted 169 times the past two seasons, but who has managed just 70 receptions. Perhaps there is a reason for hope. This is Massaquoi's "magical" third season -- a time when fantasy stars are born. He has also been the team's most productive player at the position over the past two seasons, and is now the most experienced receiver on the Browns roster.
Why it's Robiskie: In February, general manager Tom Heckert told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he believes Robiskie will be a good fit for Shurmur's West Coast offense. "He can catch the football, he's a bigger guy, I think he fits very, very well in what we're doing offensively." Robiskie will not offer as many big plays as Massaquoi or Little, but he's probably the most polished possession receiver of the bunch, making him the most attractive Browns wideout in PPR leagues. But perhaps the biggest reason why fantasy owners should favor Robiskie is that he thrived when McCoy was inserted into the starting lineup at the end of last season. All three of Robiskie's touchdowns came in the season's final month, and his biggest game as a pro (five catches for 82 yards against Cincinnati in Week 16) was also McCoy's best outing.
Why it's Little: The Browns need new blood. Cleveland's passing game hasn't generated consistent production since the Reagan administration. Little is big (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), dangerous, and has been given an opportunity in camp to get ahead, thanks to Massaquoi's ankle injury. In his last collegiate game (2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl), Little caught seven balls for 82 yards and two scores. It's been a long layoff since then for the University of North Carolina standout, but his hunger to get back to work has been evident from the start of camp.
Don't forget about: Carlton Mitchell
It's expected the team will reduce Josh Cribbs' role on offense, allowing him to focus on the return game. This will open the door for players such as Mitchell and Jordan Norwood. Mitchell was a late-round pick a year ago and could work his way up a depth chart that is packed full of unproven players. He's not much of a consideration for fantasy owners at this point, but he could play spoiler to the team's more high-profile receivers if he earns enough reps.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Little
Forget about how many drops Little has had in camp so far -- it's a moot point. The Browns are desperate to find help and can afford to live through Little's growing pains, mostly because he's the best pure talent on the roster. He's bigger than Massaquoi and more productive after the catch than Robiskie.
Plus, fantasy owners should trust the value Little's frame offers near the goal line. In the past three seasons, no Browns player has caught more than three touchdowns. Little has the ability to end that streak quickly.
Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for FootballDiehards.com.
Avalanche hold off Blackhawks' charge for 3-2 win
Burrows' first two of the season helps Canucks top Jets in SO