CeeDee Lamb — The Rookie WR1

By Chris Molina

CeeDee Lamb’s player comparison on playerprofiler.com is Jerry Rice. However, I am not here to compare him to the greatest Wide Receiver in NFL history. Let’s pump the brakes on that one for a few years. Instead, let me explain why Lamb is THE Rookie WR to draft for all of your re-draft rosters. Some people advocate for Jalen Reagor, while others are in the Jerry Jeudy camp, and yet others in the fantasy community may prefer Justin Jefferson or Henry Ruggs III. Lamb does not get as much hype in the community because he joined a crowded WR corps in Dallas. Being in Dallas is precisely why he will be the number one rookie in 2020, though. He’s uber-talented, the Cowboys are a top-3 Passing Offense in the league, and there are an incredible number of vacated targets. That is the trifecta of fantasy goodness. Stay with me, please.

The Cowboys passed the ball a whopping 597 times last year, despite them having the tenth best total defense and a defense that was eleventh in fewest points allowed — good for the second most passing yards per game. They made improvements to the line and drafted a really good cornerback from Alabama, but lost their best veteran corner in free agency. So at best, they will have a defense similar to last year. And remember, Mike McCarthy is the new head coach in Dallas. McCarthy oversaw a Green Bay Packers team that averaged 580 pass attempts in his last three full years as head coach, so it’s safe to assume that Dallas will likely throw the ball a ton. In fact, I have Dak Prescott projected to throw 607 passes — ten more than last year. Why is this significant? Because the Cowboys had 190 vacated targets from last year — second most in football, behind the Atlanta Falcons. They said goodbye to Randall Cobb, Jason Witten, and Tavon Austin, so now is a good time to remind you that Lamb is the only newcomer on the offense this year.

CeeDee Lamb

There isn’t much that new Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb can’t do. And he’s flying under the radar in fantasy drafts because Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup — his new teammates — both topped 1,000 yards in 2019. (Photo from http://www.latimes.com)

I project that Lamb will get 108 of those targets for 72 Receptions, 1,093 yards, and six touchdowns. This may seem like way too much, but it would only be 17.8% of the market share in Dallas. In his last two years in Norman, Lamb had market shares of 20% and 24.7% for the Sooners, so it is safe to assume he can handle 17% on a prolific offense. In my projections for 2020, I also had him with a 68% catch rate and 15 yards per reception. He can easily handle those as well, considering that during the same two years in Oklahoma he had a 73% catch rate and 19.6 yards per catch. Old-man Randall Cobb had 83 targets, 15 yards per catch, and a 66% catch rate — his first season with more than 10.5 yards per catch since 2014. I think it’s fair to say my projections for Lamb are reasonable. These projections would have him finishing as WR19 in my rankings, but he is being drafted as the WR43 right now on Sleeper with an ADP at the end of the 9th round. That is below both Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, who I have projected as the WR49 and WR57, respectively. Jeudy and Ruggs are both on crowded depth charts, but the difference is they are both on lower volume passing attacks with quarterbacks who are not nearly on the level that Dak Prescott is right now. As I hope you can see, there is massive potential with CeeDee Lamb.

Jalen Reagor is the only receiver that can potentially compare to Lamb in the 2020 season. I have him leading the Eagles WR corps in targets with 87, with no more than ten games of Alshon Jeffery and the inevitable missed games for DeSean Jackson. However, there weren’t very many vacated targets and the three main weapons are all coming back this year. I have Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, and Zach Ertz combining for 250 targets, with the 340 remaining targets as a smaller pie for Boston Scott, Jeffery (when healthy), Jackson, Reagor, Marquise Goodwin, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward to split. Compared this to approximately 350 for just Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Lamb — this is why Reagor is my WR41 this year. I recognize why people want to draft Reagor where he’s going (twelfth round) — he just does not have the upside of Lamb.

All of these factors combined is why you should target CeeDee Lamb on all of your teams.  If he only has four touchdowns instead of the six I am projecting for him (despite having 25 his last two years in college), then he would still be the WR25. If his numbers were closer to Randall Cobb’s last year — say 62 receptions, 940 yards, and 4 touchdowns — then he would be the WR37. That is still a value to where he is going and higher than any rookie WR ADP. That’s a safe floor for a WR2 ceiling at a WR4 price. Remember the trifecta of fantasy goodness: Lamb is uber-talented, the Cowboys passing offense was #2 in the league last year, and there are 190 vacated targets. He may not be Jerry Rice yet, but he should be on your fantasy teams as the only newcomer on that Dallas offense.