Brandon LaFell Sleeper Status
Two games into the 2012 NFL season and we are starting to see some trends and patterns of play emerge. One player who has shown up the past two weeks as a potential lifeline to battered wide receiver corps is Brandon LaFell, wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. LaFell benefits as a strong number two option in a passing offense led by quarterback Cam Newton. LaFell is flanked by star wide receiver Steve Smith, who often draws double coverage from opposing defenses. LaFell is currently owned in 25.9% of all fantasy leagues and with the good times rolling should you potentially invest in his stock?
I would say yes. As a benefactor of his consistent play these past two weeks, LaFell is showing that his production on the field can merit consideration as a replacement for some prospects who you perhaps thought would have had a bigger impact by now. LaFell is a large, 6’2’’, 210-pound receiver with 2 full years of experience before this season. In his previous 2 seasons he caught 38 passes in 2010 and 36 passes in 2011. This season, LaFell has caught 9 passes for 155 yards. LaFell’s production is on pace for a season definitely worthy for a possible 2nd or 3rd wide receiving option week to week on fantasy rosters. In week 1 against the Buccaneers, LaFell had 3 receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown translating to 12 fantasy points for owners. In week 2 against the Saints, LaFell had 6 receptions for 90 yards and 11 points. (A 25-yard rush made up the difference in points) LaFell is potent and proven option within this Panther’s offense.
The Carolina Panthers have employed an offensive attack that has varied in the past two weeks. Week 1 against the Buccaneers the Panthers used 13 rushing plays and 33 passing plays, while in week 2 against the Saints the Panthers used 41 rushing plays and 20 passing plays. Cam Newton clearly likes his relationship with LaFell utilizing him to complement the skills of Steve Smith. Smith is a smaller and quicker receiver while LaFell is a bigger, possession-based player with a smaller boost of speed. For those worried that the split of targets won’t be even between LaFell and Smith, note that throughout the first two games of the regular season the Panthers have targeted Smith 15 times and LaFell 13 times. Additionally, the stat line in fantasy favors LaFell 23 to 21. While Steve Smith is still a faster and more well known option than his emerging counterpart look for LaFell to begin to emerge as a strong starting fantasy candidate going forward.
In the Carolina Panthers next game, this Thursday night, September 20th against the Giants expect a slightly more pass heavy attack against the battered and bruised Giants secondary. With many injuries at the cornerback position, both the Buccaneers and the Cowboys have picked on the Giants in the first two weeks. In week three do not expect anything different. Justin Tryon is not going to become the next Deion Sanders in two more days; he is not even going to be the next Corey Webster in two days. With so many serious question marks in the secondary, how could the Panthers not take advantage of such a sweet match up for their all-star quarterback and strong set of wide receivers?
Final Verdict: I don’t plan on making a prediction about LaFell’s production for the season but I can definitely recommend him going forward as a consistent producer week to week. LaFell will probably not be exceeding 20 fantasy points in a given week but if he can consistently produce about 10 points per week why not add him as a consistent option with a possible high upside as opposed to someone on your bench who is extremely volatile? And if you need more reason to add him to your squad this week, remember that Justin Tryon couldn’t cover a table in week 2 against the Buccaneers and that he even helped Mike Williams score a touchdown. Tryon might not be covering LaFell all day but with Webster on Smith, there is the possibility of a bigger than normal day for LaFell this week.