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A Brief Argument in Favor of Brandon LaFell

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I think Brandon LaFell is going through ADP hatred in the same way that a lot of formerly trendy sleepers do. Last year I read articles from people saying not to draft Michael Crabtree because we know what he is and instead draft Brandon LaFell because as least we don’t know what he is (logical right?). I didn’t think those arguments got the relevant probabilities right, so I actually wrote about that in my WR piece from last year. But now LaFell has pretty well fallen off the map even though he’s still a starting WR.

The other interesting thing to me is that LaFell’s primary competition for targets is a 34 year old wide receiver. If you want to go through an interesting mental exercise, ask yourself how highly you would rate the possibility that Steve Smith misses games this year. Would you assign a 5% chance? A 10% chance? You probably wouldn’t assign a very large percentage to that possibility. That’s the problem with injuries. Recency bias plays such a strong role that it’s almost impossible to even think about them. Steve Smith is a 34 year old wide receiver. I know I already said that but it’s worth repeating because it’s obviously not being incorporated into people’s thinking. What are the odds that a guy that has played 16 games just 4 times in 12 years, plays every game at age 34? I’m not saying that Steve Smith is definitely getting hurt this year. But he’s LaFell’s only real competition for targets and yet LaFell is being drafted after Markus Wheaton.

In the case of LaFell, it’s possible that he could have value with Smith on the field (not saying it’s likely) and then if Smith goes out, LaFell would have even more value. How is he being drafted after the Steelers 3rd WR who is also a rookie? LaFell is too old (27) to be a real breakout candidate of the type that excels based on improved play. But I also think that if he just got the ball more, he could do something with those targets.

For what it’s worth, Steve Smith has played 16 games each of the last two seasons, but he’s also been on the injury report about 1/3 of the time over the past four year years. Below is Steve Smith’s injury report history via PFR. If you keep score at home you’ll end up with injuries to the following: finger, hand, knee, foot, calf, ankle, thigh, arm, ribs, back.

Name YR Week STATUS Injury Report DNP
Steve Smith 2012 16
Steve Smith 2012 15
Steve Smith 2012 14
Steve Smith 2012 13
Steve Smith 2012 12
Steve Smith 2012 11 P Probable: finger
Steve Smith 2012 10 Q Questionable: hand
Steve Smith 2012 9
Steve Smith 2012 8
Steve Smith 2012 7
Steve Smith 2012 6
Steve Smith 2012 5
Steve Smith 2012 4
Steve Smith 2012 3 Q Questionable: knee
Steve Smith 2012 2 Q Questionable: knee
Steve Smith 2012 1 Q Questionable: foot
Steve Smith 2010 16 Q Questionable: calf DNP
Steve Smith 2010 15
Steve Smith 2010 14
Steve Smith 2010 13
Steve Smith 2010 12
Steve Smith 2010 11
Steve Smith 2010 10
Steve Smith 2010 9
Steve Smith 2010 8
Steve Smith 2010 7
Steve Smith 2010 6 P Probable: ankle
Steve Smith 2010 5 D Doubtful: ankle DNP
Steve Smith 2010 4
Steve Smith 2010 3 P Probable: thigh
Steve Smith 2010 2
Steve Smith 2010 1
Steve Smith 2009 16 O Out: arm DNP
Steve Smith 2009 15
Steve Smith 2009 14
Steve Smith 2009 13
Steve Smith 2009 12
Steve Smith 2009 11 Q Questionable: rib
Steve Smith 2009 10 P Probable: ribs
Steve Smith 2009 9 P Probable: back
Steve Smith 2009 8
Steve Smith 2009 7
Steve Smith 2009 6
Steve Smith 2009 5 P Probable: knee
Steve Smith 2009 4
Steve Smith 2009 3 P Probable: ankle
Steve Smith 2009 2
Steve Smith 2009 1

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