Analyzing Brandon LaFell’s 2012 Fantasy Value
The Carolina Panthers took a huge step forward with their offense in 2011, and a lot of that had to do with realizing that Jimmy Clausen wasn’t the answer. It meant taking a chance on a fairly raw prospect in quarterback Cam Newton with the number one overall pick, but ultimately, few could say it wasn’t the right choice.
With a quality quarterback under center, it was Carolina’s passing offense that was leading the charge last season, rather than their two-man wrecking crew of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the ground game. Newton utilized superstar number one wide receiver Steve Smith to a max, and helped him wake up and put up over 1,300 receiving yards. In turn, Newton passed for over 4,000 yards as a rookie.
But it was Newton being a rookie that arguably kept the success with Newton and Smith, with tiny bits of brilliance being shared with tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, and even running back Jonathan Stewart as a receiver out of the back-field.
And to a lesser degree, second-year wide receiver Brandon LaFell was starting to show the Panthers he wasn’t another bust receiver, and that he could actually be something special.
Heading into 2012, that’s exactly what he might be – special.
Head coach Ron Rivera reportedly already views LaFell as his number two starting wide receiver, while the entire coaching staff has been high on him. David Gettis will return from a torn acl and push LaFell, but LaFell is still the expected starter with better size and ball skills.
LaFell was slow to learn and make an impact as a rookie in 2010, but after being eased along in 2011, started to make big plays when called upon, finishing with 613 receiving yards and an impressive 17 yards per catch.
With ideal size and speed, LaFell figures to slide in as the perfect complement to Steve Smith, as a good who can go up after the ball down the field, and also make plays in the red-zone.
Just like his first two seasons, though, the theme continues to be LaFell’s consistency. Is he just a one-trick pony that can make the occasional play down the field, or can he be counted on to run all the routes and make all the catches, regardless of the play or defensive coverage?
Something that could work in LaFell’s favor is the fact that he’s entering his third season in the league – a period in a wide receiver’s career where they often make a giant leap in production. With a full year with Cam Newton and an understanding of Rivera’s system, LaFell is poised to make a giant leap in terms of fantasy production in 2012.
He’s still without a doubt a high risk/high reward fantasy option, and shouldn’t be drafted as anything more than a flier late in drafts. As he stands, he carries solid WR3 value with considerable WR2 upside if he and Newton can take the next step together.