I have two passions in life outside of my own family – fantasy football and hand tools. I love to work on my own home and build things (other than dynasties) in my spare time. Hand tools come in all shapes and sizes and serve all kinds of purposes. It seems fitting today because this installment of the draft day debate features Brandon LaFell and Dexter McCluster, two very different types of players who are going to be used in very different ways.
Many drafts I’ve seen of late have these two WRs going very close to one another. The vast differences with these two has created a quandary in the minds of fantasy owners across the country. Should you take the guy with a clear path to a starting job, but one who is less than exciting? Should you take the guy with less than ideal metrics, but an “it” factor that can’t be denied? Let’s hammer out some measurables, so you don’t look like a tool yourself on draft day.
LaFell = 6’2 1/2″, 211
McCluster = 5’9″, 172
Like I said, there are some stark differences between the two and there is none bigger than this one.
Brandon LaFell is a tall, rangy WR with good hands and the ability to win a lot of one-on-one jump ball battles with cornerbacks. He has a solid build, with no real weight concerns one way or another. He’s easily tall enough to play the position.
McCluster is making the transition from RB and quite a transition it will be! McCluster’s made in the mold of Darren Sproles or Dave Meggett. His size would normally scare people off, but I have seen the kid play a lot – he’s tough as nails. It doesn’t scare me off as much as most, though he won’t win a lot of jump ball battles unless the cornerbacks have been replaced by fleas. In fact, I’d venture to say if he even finds himself in that position, Matt Cassell is having a very bad season.
LaFell = 4.65 40
McCluster = 4.58 40
Let’s face the facts here – neither of these two ran as well as they’d hoped before the draft. While the numbers are a little high for both, neither has top end speed. It’s probably more important for LaFell to improve upon that since he’ll likely have more vertical routes than McCluster. Quickness is where McCluster excels at. He’s shifty at the point of attack and very elusive.
LaFell = Carolina (pick #78 overall)
McCluster = Kansas City (pick #36 overall)
LaFell landed in a great spot in Carolina. Steve Smith has been clamoring for another WR to take the load off him and he’ll get it with LaFell. The Panthers have to hope LaFell develops much faster than a similar player they took a few years back in one Dwayne Jarrett. Regardless, the opportunity for LaFell to start in year one is his for the taking.
Many people in fantasy circles were hoping McCluster would fall to a team like the Eagles who love to take advantage of pass catching RBs. Instead, he was taken by the Chiefs, who already have a dynamic runner in Jamaal Charles and a pounder in Thomas Jones. It was a curious choice until the plan to move McCluster to WR was revealed. This revelation makes the team a better fit for McCluster, but ironically, makes it much harder to project how he’ll fare.
LaFell has had no real injury issues, while McCluster dealt with a shoulder injury that lingered on a few years back. You can’t really say McCluster isn’t durable with the pounding he took, but it’s equally tough to say it’s not a risk you take when you draft him because of his size.
There are no serious issues around either, other than the mysterious media ban put on LaFell a year ago. No serious red flags, though.
LaFell = 57/792/11 (receiving)
McCluster = 181/1169/8 (rushing)
It’s like comparing a regular screwdriver to a Phillips (not Lawrence) here.
Brandon LaFell could have easily come out in last year’s draft and been a fringe first rounder. His career numbers (175/2,517/25) are pretty good, but nothing that’s says “future #1 WR.” You do have to consider a dropoff in QB play at LSU, however. Overall, LaFell did enough to impress.
With the change in position, it’s tough to gauge what kind of a receiver McCluster really will be. When you take a look at his college receving numbers (44/520/3), they’re pretty impressive. That’s an average of 11.8 ypc, and that was the worst ypc average he had at Ole Miss – pretty incredible when you combine it with his rushing accomplishments.
Hand tools come in all shapes and sizes, just like WRs. In the end, you need to choose the one you feel is going to have the best chance to blossom at the next level.
I compare LaFell to a level. He’s tall, serves a one dimensional purpose, and can be counted on to be accurate and steady. That’s pretty simple. There’s not too much to be excited about, but there’s also something to be said for an element of knowing what you paid for.
Dexter McCluster is like a Swiss army knife. He’s multi-dimensional, can help in a variety of different ways, and always has a surprise in him. Remember when you were a kid and got your first swiss army knife? It was so much fun to use it as a corkscrew, a screwdriver, a knife…then you found the hidden match inside! You have to believe the Chiefs are salivating over the ways they can use their very own McCluster knife in the return game, receiving game, and as a 3rd down RB.
When I go to this hardware store, I’m walking out with McCluster. I can find a level just about any year, but the potential to hit a home run with a very unique hand tool is just too much to pass up.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK