Steve Smith has been the model of consistency for the Carolina Panthers and even at age 33 Smith can still easily get the job done. As another NFL offseason is upon us it’s important to look at who needs to step up for their teams in 2013.
In my mind Brandon LaFell is the guy that the Panthers need to take the torch from their ageless wonder in Smith. Now 26-years-old LaFell has three years of NFL experience under his belt and should be at least a 1,000 yard receiver this year. Cam Newton has obviously favored Smith since being drafted, but the connection between the third-year quarterback and LaFell has improved with time.
Last season LaFell was expected to breakout as well, but he was sidelined for two games this season and had pretty much the same season he had in 2011. That can’t happen this year as the Panthers will not compete in a brutal NFC South without an aerial attack with some depth. To make matters worse the Panthers play the hardest schedule in the NFL based upon last seasons record–Carolina’s opponents for the 2013 had a total record of 138-116-2 in 2012.
At 6-foot-2 LaFell has the ability to be both a slot and outside receiver and that flexibility should show in the stats.
Last year he saw an increase of nearly a reception a game and thus had 44 receptions in just 14 games and 677 receiving yards. One thing is for certain the four touchdowns that LaFell caught in 2012 should definitely go up with Newton entering his third season underneath center.
Smith has led the Panthers in receiving yards 10 of the last 11 seasons–LaFell must try to change that statistic in 2013.