CeeDee Lamb was one of my favorite prospects in the entire 2020 class – his combination of polished route-running, physical contested-catch play, and the open-field style of a running back had me very excited. I had Lamb’s pro comparison as DeAndre Hopkins in my pre-draft content, so needless to say, I was pretty surprised when he fell to the 17th pick of the first round. The Cowboys were incredibly wise to jump at the chance to add him to an offensive skill corps that already featured Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott, and Blake Jarwin. While wide receiver wasn’t a real need for Dallas, Lamb makes it arguably their biggest strength. What should we expect from him in his rookie season in the NFL?
Six months ago I knew literally nothing about creative editing. But I wanted to learn. I’m a huge Cowboys fan, so I figured CeeDee Lamb would be a fantastic subject. After spending some serious time in the lab, this is the final product. Hope y’all enjoy. pic.twitter.com/EL6z6wCmKP
— Nate Smith (@nate_smith_9) May 25, 2020
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Oklahoma had another year of excellent offensive production in 2019 thanks in large part to the elite coaching of Lincoln Riley. However, it can’t be overlooked that the Big 12 had some of the worst defenses in college football this past year. Lamb almost certainly won’t be averaging over 21 yards per reception in 2020, nor will he be receiving 14 touchdowns. Still, he capitalized on his situation to the tune of some of the best numbers of any receiver in the country.
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The Cowboys quickly gave CeeDee Lamb the number 88 jersey, which has a storied past in Dallas, previously worn by elite wid receivers in Terrell Owens, Dez Bryant, and Drew Pearson. I believe that signifies their expectation that Lamb is a major contributor right away, and I have him eclipsing 110 targets in his rookie season despite being behind Cooper and Gallup on the depth chart. New head coach Mike McCarthy has a history of using 3-wide sets, and Lamb is going to be one of the Cowboys’ best offensive weapons, so he should be on the field plenty this year.
So CeeDee Lamb has some pretty solid control of his feet pic.twitter.com/xf9jYZDCw7
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) May 30, 2020
ADP: 138.2, WR64
Auction Value: $0
CeeDee Lamb is going to be a late-round pick in most leagues. As much as I love his talent, you have to temper expectations for any rookie wide receiver – last season, no rookie went over 60 catches, and only one (A.J. Brown) went over 1,000 yards. However, it was still considered to be a strong statistical season by the freshman class. If there’s a rookie I’m willing to take a chance on at receiver this year, though, it is Lamb given the high-octane offense he finds himself in. You could do a lot worse with a late-round flier.
Kellen Moore is back as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in something of a rare move as the team transitions at head coach. Moore ran a ton of 3-wide sets last year – all of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb played on over 65% of the team’s snaps – and that should continue with Lamb in Cobb’s place. Cobb is a reasonably average receiver talent-wise at this point in his career, but he still put up 828 yards and three touchdowns on 55 receptions last year to finish as the WR44 in PPR scoring. It’s hard to imagine Lamb doing worse than Cobb did in that WR3 role, so he’s likely going to be a value at his current ADP even as a rookie. Lamb also profiles as a better red-zone weapon than Cobb and should be able to get more than the one touchdown inside the 20-yard line that Cobb had last year.
I still believe the Cowboys view Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as their top two receivers, so it’s hard to get a clear idea of what Lamb’s target upside is for this season. Gallup and Cooper combined for 232 targets last year, and that high level of offensive workload should be back for them. However, much of the 166 vacated targets left behind by Randall Cobb and Jason Witten should go to Lamb (although some will also go to Blake Jarwin at TE). Lamb’s pure talent might have a give him a higher upside than Gallup production-wise, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him climb ahead of Gallup in the pecking order, but that likely won’t happen right away. Lamb’s top-end production probably looks something like 75 catches for close to 1,000 yards and six touchdowns – that would make him a low-end WR2 in the realm of what A.J. Brown was last season.
I can’t believe we drafted CeeDee Lamb pic.twitter.com/2xI69FyjqD
— leon saunders (@lrsaunders3) May 25, 2020
Dallas Cowboys Offense
The Cowboys are coming off a season in which their offense ranked 6th in points for, and 1st in total yards gained, and yet, somehow, their offense might be better this year. Mike McCarthy is unquestionably an upgrade at head coach over Jason Garrett, who often held this team back. Dak Prescott is going to be resigned to a massive contract and will be back after ranking 2nd in passing yards and 4th in passing touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot is also back after ranking 4th in rushing yards and 5th in rushing touchdowns. I see Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb being the most productive trio of receivers in football this year and combining for over 350 targets and close to 3,000 yards. Projecting who those targets go to is the real key to identifying value amongst these guys as fantasy assets. Any way you slice it, though, the Cowboys are going to field one of the best offenses in football next season.
Strength of Schedule
Fantasy owners may not be thrilled about Lamb landing on a team with established receiving weapons in place. Still, the underrated aspect of that is he will likely draw the second or third-best cornerback on most weeks, or at least less defensive attention than if he were the top weapon. When discussing the strength of schedule, it’s essential to keep that in mind as well as the fact that the Cowboys will be setting the bar for offensive production against most teams they play. All that said, the Cowboys have one of the best schedules in football for receiving production potential. Their division, the NFC East, have them facing three defenses who were in the bottom 12 of the league in fantasy points allowed to receivers – the Redskins (20th), Giants (28th), and Eagles (29th). Dallas will have to deal with a handful of elite defensive units – the Steelers (7th), Browns (9th), and 49ers (12th) all ranked inside the top 12 for points allowed to wide receivers – but their schedule is mostly made up of middle-of-the-pack defenses against receivers like the Bengals (13th), Ravens (14th), Rams (15th), Seahawks (16th), Falcons (17th), Cardinals (25th), and Vikings (26th). There’s plenty to like about this schedule for the Cowboys passing game to succeed.
You may be ruling out CeeDee Lamb’s potential for production this season as a rookie wideout who’s at best 4th on the pecking order on his offense after Cooper, Gallup, and Elliott. Still, there are plenty of factors which suggest he has intriguing upside for this year. Lamb’s an incredibly gifted player who will be a factor on all three levels of the field as well as the red-zone. The Cowboys will run a lot of 3-wide sets, which means Lamb should see plenty of playing time, but who sees the highest volume of passing targets on a week-to-week basis may be tough to predict. Lamb should see a lot of open space playing alongside the other talented pass-catchers on the Dallas roster, though, and if there were to be an injury to Cooper or Gallup, his upside would go through the roof. Lamb is my favorite rookie receiver for fantasy this season, and I’ll be looking to spend a late-round flier on him in many leagues.
CeeDee Lamb ended up falling to the Cowboys and the 17th pick. He has a lot of people excited for his potential fantasy impact.@AndrewErickson_ goes over CeeDee Lamb’s fantasy forecast and details what we can expect from him in his rookie season.https://t.co/YHN8WvNeIB
— FantasyData (@FantasyDataNFL) April 29, 2020
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