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Brandon LaFell's 2015 Fantasy Football Outlook

By Kevin English 10:16am EDT 7/10/15
Draft Sharks Podcast

Few teams can take a middling talent like LaFell and turn him into a top-25 WR. The Pats, unsurprisingly, can.

LaFell’s first 4 years -- all in Carolina -- didn’t provide much hope. He averaged 42 catches, 596 yards and 3 TDs per season. The former 3rd-rounder stood a sturdy 6’3, 210 pounds, but he wasn’t very fast or precise in his route running. LaFell’s 2013 even produced a horrid 14.04% drop rate.

After landing in New England, LaFell battled Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins for a starting role. Thompkins never stepped up, while a foot injury limited Dobson’s effectiveness.

LaFell locked up the starting role, but he didn’t produce immediately. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman dominated the early action, as LaFell struggled to grasp a new offense. He failed to secure any of his 6 targets in Week 1. He didn’t see a single target on any of his 38 snaps in Week 2.

"I’m frustrated as hell, man," LaFell said prior to Week 3. "I want to catch passes like every other guy in here, like every receiver around the league. But the game plan is not for me to catch, it’s to block. So that’s what I’ve got to do."

LaFell must have channeled his anger, as the remainder of the season provided a much larger receiving role. From Week 4 on, he provided 1 of the biggest surprises in fantasy football by finishing 13th among PPR scorers.

Beyond the rocky start and a Week 5 dud vs. the Bengals, LaFell displayed surprising consistency. He scored 10+ fantasy points in 8 of his final 11 games. That span included 2 games with 2 TDs -- just the 2nd and 3rd such outings of his career.

Tom Brady’s attempts dropped to 582 following years with 637 (2012) and 628 (2013). Yet LaFell managed to see a healthy 119 targets and capitalized with a 65% catch rate. LaFell’s hands showed clear improvement, as he dropped just 6.33% of his catchable targets, according to Pro Football Focus. That figure ranked above those of established studs Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson and Calvin Johnson.

Brady’s attempts should rebound slightly in 2015 -- at least when he returns from his anticipated 4-game ban for “Deflategate.” But it’s tough to project growth from the 28-year-old LaFell coming off a career-best 74-953-7 line -- even if he’s locked into a starting spot. LaFell did benefit from 2 games without Julian Edelman. Those contests produced lines of 7-64 (10 targets) and 4-70 (5 targets). With Gronk and Edelman entrenched as the top 2 options, LaFell will need to maintain his efficiency. His Carolina days say that’s far from a lock, but New England’s superior weaponry will continue to put him in favorable matchups.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Another year alongside Brady certainly bodes well for LaFell’s outlook. Despite turning 38 in August, Brady remains a high-end QB. We’re just not in love with LaFell’s raw skill set, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see some regression set in. Plus, a quarter of the season without Brady does put a dent in LaFell’s upside. A reasonable  ADP and his placement on an established offense still allows for a low-end WR3 floor.

For more on LaFell's 2015 fantasy outlook, check out the DS Quickie below.

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