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Brandon LaFell ranked among best NFL No. 2 receivers at creating separation

Brandon LaFell stepped up big time for the Bengals when the team needed him to do just that.

Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

One of the most under-the-radar acquisitions of the 2016 offseason, Brandon LaFell had a surprisingly good season for the Bengals.

In his seventh NFL season, LaFell finished second on the team in both receptions (64) and receiving yards (862), while leading the team in touchdown receptions with six. He was arguably the MVP of the offense over the last two months when Green and Eifert missed time down the stretch.

In fact, LaFell was one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL in terms of creating separation, according to a study by’s Matt Harmon.

4) Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati Bengals (2.76 separation at target)

Out wide separation: 2.72 (83.2 percent of targets)

Slot separation: 2.21 (14 percent of targets)

Air yards per target: 10.9

We can feel your snickers from here, but look, the Bengals did actually get a solid season as a No. 2 wide receiver out of Brandon LaFell. He even had to step in as the No. 1 toward the end of the season, as he averaged a team-high 8.7 targets per game in the six contests that A.J. Green missed. LaFell averaged 2.76 yards of separation on his targets this year and presented a reasonable option for Andy Dalton. A free agent this offseason, LaFell could conceivably return to the Bengals on a reasonable contract. Should he depart, that would open up a hole at the No. 2 outside spot in Cincinnati. Rookie Tyler Boyd was much more effective on his slot targets (2.75 yards of separation) than when targeted out wide (1.97 yards of separation) in his first pro season, so projecting him to that spot is a bit of a leap of faith.

Those ranked ahead of LaFell are Packers receiver Davante Adams, Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and Saints receiver Brandin Cooks. Sticking to that, LaFell was targeted 43 times over the final five regular-season games, and he caught 28 of them, good for a 65-percent catch rate. Just being targeted that many times showed how often he was able to get separation, which is why Dalton threw to him so much down the stretch.

LaFell also finished with a respectable No. 42 ranking among 115 eligible receivers by Pro Football Focus. For comparison, Marvin Jones finished No. 45, so that ended up being a wash between the former and current Bengals No. 2 receiver.

It would be nice to see the Bengals re-sign LaFell and keep that going next season.