By Matt Johnson

I see you reaching for the “drop” button, I am begging you don’t drop Carolina Panthers WR Brandon LaFell. I know he was one of the most talked about waiver wire pickups by all the fantasy “experts”, and you bought into starting him this week, expecting a big game. I feel your pain, I started LaFell in every league I could get him in, and I was hoping for some production. After watching the Panthers vs. Giants game I can’t put the blame on LaFell for lack of production. I know many of you are ready to cut him after a disappointing stat line (1 catch 27 receiving yards), but let me tell you why he is still worth a roster spot.

Brandon LaFell really shined last week against the Saints, taking a reverse play for 25 yards, and racking up 6 receptions for 90 yards on 8 targets. His 8 targets led the Panthers, and was a reason for optimism. LaFell has always had talent, this was just the first year he was healthy and was given a shot at the No.2 job opposite of Smith. Through 2 games LaFell had 9 catches for 155 yards and 1 TD, and has been building a chemistry with Cam Newton. Before this game there was reason to go out on the waiver wire and pick up LaFell, and most did with his ownership shooting up 26.8% on ESPN and 14.2% on NFL.com. Enough of why LaFell was added before Thursday Night Football, now I am going to tell you exactly why you shouldn’t drop him after tonights’ game.

Going against a New York Giants pass defense that was decimated already by injuries in the secondary and ranked 22nd in the NFL in passing defense, I was definitely expecting big things. Steve Smith has long been the No.1 target in Carolina and was going to be covered by Corey Webster. While Webster covered Smith, 2nd year CB Prince Amukamara was matched up with LaFell and playing for the first time this season, it was a favorable matchup for LaFell. LaFell did a terrific job for the most part against Amukamara, getting open early in the game, including on a 20 yard hitch where Cam Newton just never saw him. This wouldn’t be the only time LaFell was wide open deep, the problem was Cam just couldn’t see him. I counted a minimum of 4 times when LaFell was open, 2 of those being down the field, and another just short of the end zone late in the game. Another instance of LaFell being open, came late in the 2nd quarter on a slant route at the Giants 39, there was a perfect window for Cam to get Brandon LaFell the ball, but instead Newton threw it behind LaFell, where he could only get a hand on it and the ball was tipped in the air, only to be intercepted by Jayron Hosley. It would mark the first of 3 interceptions on the night for “Superman”, 2 of which were intended passes for LaFell. While Brandon finished the night with only 5 targets, what the box score won’t show is how many times he was open for a big play and Newton just couldn’t make the throw. In the end while the stat sheet may look ugly, the bad performance has little to do with LaFell and plenty to do with the struggles of his QB. That is exactly why I say keep Brandon LaFell on your roster, and I know it will pay off for you down the road. If LaFell is dropped in one of your leagues let him clear waivers, then pick him up, he will bring a boost to your receiving depth down the road.

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Matt Johnson

I am a sports writer entering my first year in college. I am also a aspiring sports radio host.

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