Scouting Report: WR Brandon LaFell

Jimmy Clausen stole all the draft headlines, but the Panthers rookie with the best chance to start this season may be Brandon LaFell. Can the former LSU receiver be a consistent playmaker? How would he be best utilized in Carolina? For these and other answers, we talk to Shea Dixon, the managing editor of

The Carolina Panthers selected Brandon LaFell in the third round (No. 78 overall) of this year's draft. The towering receiver (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) was a three-year starter at LSU, where his career totals included 175 catches for 2,517 yards and 25 scores.

As a rookie, LaFell will compete with fourth-year pro Dwayne Jarrett for the starting position vacated by franchise mainstay Mushin Muhammad. Does the rookie have what it takes to not only win the job, but to provide a dynamic outside weapon? For more, we turn to Shea Dixon, the managing editor of

Michael Lombardo: Brandon had some shining moments at LSU, yet never had a 1,000-yard receiving season and averaged less than 800 yards in three years as a starter. What prevented him from putting up bigger numbers?

Shea Dixon: He persevered through a tough couple of years at quarterback, from the Jarrett Lee interceptions to the inept attack last fall where LSU ranked 112th in total offense. Still, he managed to catch over 50 balls in each of the last three seasons, and his 11 total touchdowns in 2009 were a career-high. He managed to get out of the shadow of Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis while at LSU, but he wasn't held in that same sort of elite status in the eyes of NFL scouts, which ultimately led to Bowe and Davis being selected in the first round by their respective teams. LaFell came through for the Tigers in many of the same ways they did, and I expect that he is as NFL-ready as the pair as well.

ML: LSU has produced several highly drafted receivers in recent seasons, including Bowe, Davis, Early Doucet and Devery Henderson. Is it something about the LSU program that prepares receivers for the NFL? Or do the Tigers just do an exceptional job of recruiting at the position?

SD: I think it's a combination of both. Early Doucet was a five-star and the No. 1 player in the country. Dwayne Bowe was of the same mold. Terrance Toliver and Rueben Randle, NFL-bound receivers that are on the LSU campus now, were also ranked as the No. 1 wide receivers coming out. LaFell is the anomaly of the group. He was undersized and underrated coming out of Houston, but he added a couple of inches during his first year on campus, and all of a sudden the staff had a lanky receiver that turned himself into a 6-foot-3, 206-pound wideout ready for the big stage.

ML: Would you compare Brandon to any of the other LSU wideouts that came before him?

SD: I would compare him more to Bowe than the rest. He's a big kid who isn't afraid to go across the middle, but he also becomes of even more value when you get into the red zone where he can out-leap defensive backs with consistency.

ML: How did his time at LSU prepare him for success with the Panthers?

SD: He experienced some ups and downs with the quarterback situation and lack of offensive production, but he remained focused and never took to trashing the team. It was a tough period for a group of LSU players, but he weathered it well. I think he will face somewhat similar adversities on his road in Carolina, and his prior experiences will have served him well. One better, he was competing against a handful of players who are already in the NFL, at both receiver and defensive back. The experience against elite talent is already there.

ML: Where will he need to improve the most in order to realize his potential?

SD: Consistency. The NFL is a league that isn't very forgiving. Drops at the rate that he had during his younger college years likely won't cut it.

ML: The Panthers are obviously thin right now at wide receiver. But on a team with a full arsenal of offensive weapons, what role is Brandon best suited to play?

SD: With his body, you would picture LaFell as the perfect outside man, but with Terrance Tolliver's height and abilities, the Tigers used LaFell primarily in the slot, where he caught the majority of the team's screen passes and short routes. I think he could fit in as a great possession receiver in Carolina.

How much will LaFell contribute this season? Talk about it in the message boards.

Panther Insider Top Stories