I based that pick on a couple of things: First, the Panthers didn’t go out and bring in a veteran receiver after letting Legedu Naanee depart via free agency. Second, I’d heard from some people in the organization that LaFell had been having a nice offseason.
But I feel even better about putting LaFell on that list after watching him practice in Tuesday’s minicamp session and interviewing him afterward. LaFell seemed to get most of the work opposite No. 1 receiver Steve Smith with the first-team offense.
Then, I spoke to a third-year pro who sounded like he has every intention of winning a full-time starting job.
“My whole mind-set is to do everything I can so that they don’t have to make a decision for me to split time with anybody else,’’ said LaFell, who backed up Naanee at times last year and shared time with him at other times. “I want the No. 2 spot to be mine, so I’m doing everything I can to solidify that.’’
So what does LaFell have to do to solidify that spot?
“Keep making plays,’’ said LaFell, who finished last season with 36 catches for 613 yards and three touchdowns. “Know my assignment. Go up and get the ball. Catch every ball. Make every block and do everything I can.’’
So far, it sounds like the coaching staff is seeing all those things -- and more -- from LaFell.
“He looks much more comfortable,’’ coach Ron Rivera said. “In fact, you see him helping other guys. You see him working with the younger guys. You see him working very well with Steve and (tight end) Greg Olsen. I think his rapport with (quarterback) Cam (Newton) is developing very quickly. That’s what we need -- that other guy to step up and be that other guy that’s going to stress the defenses that we face. As he develops and becomes a better and better football player, we may see even more things from Steve.’’