The key to winning in fantasy football is knowing things others do not, whether that be a sleeper or a bust, the only way to win consistently in fantasy football is to stay ahead of the curve. One way to do that is identify sleepers such as Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who is primed for a breakout season in 2012.
LaFell may not be on the radar of many fantasy owners now but he will be once he starts putting up big numbers this season, which is why it is important to get the jump on him before everyone else does.
A metric that is really gaining steam in the fantasy football world in terms of measuring wide receiver productivity is yards per target. After all, a player cannot control how many times he gets the football, only once with he does with the opportunities that come his way.
In this area LaFell excelled. He was targeted by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton 56 times last season and the former third-round draft out of LSU, turned those 56 targets in 36 receptions for 613 yards and three touchdowns. Metric wise that equates to a catch percentage of 64 percentage and a highly impressive 10.9 yards per target. He also averaged one touchdown every 18.6 targets.
Truth be told, LaFell was a very good receiver last season for the Panthers, he simply had limited opportunities. Despite leading the Panthers in yards per target, LaFell inexplicably finished the season sixth on the team in targets behind Steve Smith, Legedu Naanee, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Stewart.
However, Shockey and Naanee have moved on clearing the way for LaFell as the clear-cut starter opposite Smith and the no.2 option for Newton in the passing game.
Considering that between the two of them, Shockey and Naanee were targeted 138 times, it would make sense that a majority of the missing targets would start coming LaFell’s way, especially when taking into account how ineffective Olsen was with the 90 targets he received. The former Bears tight end, who the Panthers acquired in a trade last offseason, caught just 45 of 90 targets last season for a 50 percent catch rate and produced just 540 yards for a yards per target average of six.
Therefore, the only logical solution for the Panthers to improve their passing attack is to get the ball to LaFell, who will also benefit from any improvement Newton makes in his second season as an NFL quarterback; And as long as Carolina recognizes the talent they have in LaFell and give him the amount of targets he deserves, then he is going to make a big jump as a fantasy player in 2012.
Brandon LaFell 2012 Fantasy Football PPR Projection:
Due to his performance in 2011, it is clear the LaFell is ready to take the next step in his development. He is ready for an expanded role in the offense and the Panthers would be insane not to throw him the football at least 100 times next season, if not more. He is a bona-fide deep threat, who can beat people with both size and speed.
Since most starting wide receivers in the NFL receive around 100 targets, FantasyPPR.com projects that LaFell will receive 95 targets in 2012 and even after factoring in a slight decline to his efficiency due to an increased workload, our projection for LaFell is 57 receptions for 997 yards and five touchdowns, numbers worthy of a solid WR2 and a great value pick on draft day.