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How Deion Sanders Changed My Opinion of Brandon LaFell

Recently the outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones said that Prime Time could have shutdown Calvin Johnson in a one on one match-up. Deion took the high road and refused to compare players from different eras. Then the moment of clarity came in Prime’s next statement. " I played against Hall of Famers. We had to choose whom to defend. I would line up across from Jerry Rice and look across the field at John Taylor, teams today don’t have that other guy". He went on to mention the formidable duos of Jake Reed and Cris Carter. Duper and Clayton. Lofton and Reed.

That’s when it hit me. I have been subconsciously comparing Lafell to the #2’s from my youth. I am 38 years old. Born in North Carolina. Raised a Cowboys fan. PANTHERS FAN SINCE INCEPTION!!! My earliest wide receiver memories are of Drew Pearson and Butch Johnson. So I decided to research the best WR combos that immediately came to mind (the mind’s eye test) to see how Lafell stood up to those that my memory tells me were the best.

The criteria I used were simple. Who do I always compare LaFell to from memory and what do I think makes a true #2? The answer to the latter is if the defense decides to take away #1 will the #2 consistently make them pay. Now, to explain the methodology of how I will rank LaFell in reference to the #2s of days gone by. Simple. How did the #2’s production stack up against the #1? The seasons depicted are the best season that the #2 had while playing with the #1. Bold denotes #2.

Jerry Rice#80 and John Taylor#82 – Taylor matched 73% of Rice’s production.

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

27

SFO

1989

82

15

15

60

1077

18.0

10

27

SFO

1989

80

16

16

82

1483

18.1

17

Mark Duper #85 and Mark Clayton #83 – Duper matched 94 % of Clayton’s production.

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

23

MIA

1984

83

15

15

73

1389

19.0

18

27

MIA

1984

85

16

16

71

1306

18.4

8

Cris Carter #80 and Randy Moss #84 – Carter matched 88% of Moss’s production

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

23

MIN

2000

84

16

16

77

1437

18.7

15

35

MIN

2000

85

16

16

96

1274

13.3

9

Torry Holt #81 and Isaac Bruce #80 – Bruce matched 94 % of Holt’s production.

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

23

STL

2004

81

16

16

94

1372

14.6

10

32

STL

2004

80

16

16

89

1292

14.5

6

Steve Smith #89 and Mushin Muhammad #87 Moose matched 75% of Smith’s

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

24

CAR

2003

89

16

11

88

1110

12.6

7

30

CAR

2003

87

15

15

54

837

15.5

3

Steve Smith #89 and Brandon LaFell #11 – LaFell matched 57% of Smith’s production.

AGE

TEAM

YEAR

NO

G

GS

REC

YARDS

AVG

TD

26

CAR

2012

11

14

13

44

677

15.4

4

33

CAR

2012

89

16

16

73

1174

16.1

4

On average the best duos had a production disparity of about 12.75 % or in other words the #2 gave the team about 87.25% of what the number one produced (Smitty and Moose are not included in these numbers).

Self- analysis. I may have been way too harsh on LaFell. When I think #2, these guys are my point of reference. Two of the four quarterbacks that these receivers had were all time greats. Montana and Marino. The exceptions would be Culpepper in Minnesota and Bulger in STL. Brandon loses targets to Olsen. Quick name the tight ends for any of these teams. Also, these teams were all very pass happy.

Through 9 games this season LaFell has matched 88% of Smitty’s production, right on par with the all time great #2’s. Before you say 89 is old. The average age difference between my all-time duos is 6.25 years. Smitty is 6.5 years older than Brandon (or Donald whatever). This is a sign of multiple positives. LaFell is coming into his own. Cam is spreading the ball around and Ted Ginn and Olsen are causing match up nightmares for defenses leaving huge holes in zones for LaFell to exploit.

Thanks for reading.

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