Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
Weight: 211 pounds
40 time: 4.58
A receiver who possesses all of the tools that scouts look for in an eventual No. 1 or No. 2 receiver for a team in the NFL, Brandon LaFell leaves LSU as one of the team’s all-time leading receivers. He recorded 175 catches (third in school history) for 2,517 yards (fifth) and 25 touchdowns (second) in his time with the Tigers; Brandon’s most productive season came as a junior in 2008 when he caught 63 passes for 929 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught one pass in 41-consecutive games to end his career, which shows that he’s capable of being a consistent option in the passing game.
A three-year starter with great experience playing in the SEC, LaFell has a terrific combination of size, speed, and athleticism. He has the large frame that makes him a big target in the passing game while also offering teams the speed and quickness needed to be a deep threat down the field; his speed isn’t outstanding, but it’s good for a player as big as he is. Brandon has a good vertical with the ability to high point the ball and go up and grab it out of the air. He extends his body well, and with long arms, he’s capable of catching the ball away from his body.
After the catch, he has the elusiveness and big frame needed to run around and through defenders to pick up extra yards after the catch. His large size makes him a hard player to bring down. One other area where his strength and bulk help him is as a blocker in the running game, where he is able to consistently shield the defensive back off to open up holes out on the edge for the ball carrier; he’s one of the best blockers in this year’s wide receiver class.
One reason why I’m not exactly thrilled with LaFell is because he drops way too many passes; whether it’s because he has poor concentration, he doesn’t have good hands, or because he has rather small hands, it doesn’t matter, he needs to get this figured out at the next level if he wants to have any chance of having success in the NFL. One other area that I’m concerned about is him trying to buck a trend of LSU receivers having success in the NFL; since 2002 when Josh Reed was drafted in the second round, the school has had a number of busts at the wide receiver position (Reed, Craig Davis, Skyler Green).
When you look at former Tiger Dwayne Bowe, who LaFell compares favorably too, he’s been a solid, yet inconsistent receiver for Kansas City; Devery Henderson has been a nice threat down the field in New Orleans, but was he worth the 50th pick in the draft?; Michael Clayton had one great year as a rookie before completely falling off and is now being considered a bust; Early Doucet has upside still, but he has yet to do much in Arizona. What I’m saying is that when you consider taking LaFell, be aware that not every LSU receiver has had success in the NFL or has lived up to his draft status. I project that LaFell will be drafted in the second-to-third round.
LaFell has the talent and athleticism to develop into a top receiver in the NFL; it’s just a question of whether he can put everything together to develop into a complete receiver, and whether or not he can quit dropping passes. I’m not as high on him as other scouts are, but I do think he does offer nice upside at the next level to the team that drafts him.
Notes: Brandon was named first-team All-SEC as a junior, second-team All-SEC as a senior, and was named to the Freshmen All-SEC team in 2006. LaFell was named the No. 32 player in the state of Texas and No. 32 wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com coming out of high school. He was also a successful point guard in basketball as a prep.
While the track record of LSU receivers isn’t quite as abysmal as, say, that of Florida wideouts, it does give reason for pause with regards to LaFell. Same for the concern about his hands; it doesn’t matter if a wideout has good speed and great size if he can’t come up with the catch. But that’s the negative side of LaFell’s potential, and despite those qualms he’s still considered a top-five wideout who’ll go off the board in the second round.
The comparison to Dwayne Bowe certainly holds water, and dynasty leaguers wouldn’t be off-base to have similar expectations for LaFell. He’ll be an early enough pick that he’ll likely enter training camp pushing for significant playing time, and with his skill set and experience he should find a way to get open in the NFL; the key will be whether or not he drops the ball when it comes his way.