If you don't already own Brandon LaFell and he's still available in your fantasy football league, now is the time to get this young wide receiver before he's gone for good.
LaFell has become one of Cam Newton's favorite targets through two weeks of the 2012 NFL season, and the Carolina Panthers' newest star on offense is only going to continue rising in the weeks to come.
So, what makes LaFell such a good fantasy option?
LaFell has size and speed which can't be coached. At 6' 2" and 210 pounds, he's a formidable physical opponent for most cornerbacks, and his top-end speed is good enough to be a big threat opposite Steve Smith on the other side—a true speed demon.
During LaFell's four years at Louisiana State, he caught 175 passes for 2,517 yards (14.4 yards per catch) and 25 touchdowns.
LaFell's biggest weaknesses entering the NFL, according to NFL.com: "Suffers from lapses of concentration which lead to drops. Is not precise route-runner, is susceptible to press-coverage, and occasionally struggles to gain separation."
From what I've seen from him this season, LaFell has improved in all of those areas. He's stronger, more precise with his routes and vastly has improved his hands and level of concentration.
LaFell is entrenched firmly in the Panthers offense as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Steve Smith. So far this season, he's caught nine passes for 155 yards (17.2 yards per reception) and one touchdown.
Louis Murphy is the team's third wide receiver, but he's not been a big part of the offense so far, with only three catches for 63 yards.
The Panthers face the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football in Week 3: A matchup that bodes well for LaFell and the rest of the offense.
The Giants have given up 518 passing yards and five touchdowns in their first two games, and given the fact that Newton is a threat to run, LaFell will find himself wide open at times for big plays.
The next couple of games after this one are big challenges for LaFell and the Panthers.
The Atlanta Falcons in Week 4 provide a stiff test. Mike Nolan has given the Falcons a new identity on defense, and they got Peyton Manning to throw three bad picks in Week 2. Then, in Week 5, the Panthers take on the Seattle Seahawks—a team with a young, talented defense that is extremely fast.
Those games will be tough, but given the threat Newton is to run on any given play, I expect LaFell to shine all season long as his No. 2 option in the passing game.
LaFell is a receiver you should be starting every week.
The Panthers are going to be explosive on offense all year long, as long as Newton stays healthy.
Will LaFell keep surging, or will he experience a slump?
His ability to scramble gives opposing defenses fits. He can take off and run for 25 yards, but he can also roll out of the pocket and find his receivers once coverage starts breaking down.
His ability to run makes LaFell's abilities shine all the more, and I expect big things from the two of them as they grow in the offense together.
Last year, as Newton's No. 3 receiver, LaFell hauled in 36 passes for 613 yards and three touchdowns. He seems to be constantly improving the more he plays, and given his speed and abilities after the catch, I won't be surprised to see him haul in 10 touchdowns by the end of the 2012 season.
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