“Whosoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” – Stan Lee.
Who is worthy of being a WR1 this season?
CeeDee Lamb came into the NFL with hype and excitement. He finished his rookie season as the WR24 and then improved to the WR19 in 2021 for PPR scoring. CeeDee Lamb is now the true WR1 on the Dallas Cowboys. But is he worthy of being a WR1 in fantasy football?
Note: Our Wednesday, July 13th, No Punt Intended episode looked at Ceedee Lamb in fantasy football! We welcomed Nate Hamilton, the new editor for The Gambling Group! The show dug into the Raiders, Cardinals, and Cowboys.
The Saga of CeeDee Lamb in Fantasy Football
Part 1: Rookie Year (Thor)
In the first Thor movie, he was strong, passionate, but naïve about how the universe worked. Thor had to struggle and learn what was truly important as a god of Asgard to be deemed worthy to wield his hammer.
The Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He was considered a luxury pick since the team already had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as their two leading receivers. Much like Thor, Lamb had to face hardships to help him develop. Dak Prescott seriously injured his ankle in Week 5 and was out the rest of the season. Lamb had to catch passes from Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert to finish his rookie season.
Despite these hardships, Lamb played well as a rookie to finish as the WR24 in PPR. He finished with 111 targets, 74 receptions, 1,017 total yards, and six total touchdowns. Those are solid stats for a rookie wide receiver playing with below-average quarterbacks. Lamb was second on the team in target share, only behind Amari Cooper, at 18.1%.
Just like after the movie Thor, Lamb’s next season had lots of excitement, and expectations increased. Did Thor: The Dark World meet expectations? Will Lamb jump a level in his second season?
Part 2: Last Season (Thor: The Dark World)
Most people believe Thor: The Dark World was a disappointment after the anticipation from Thor. CeeDee Lamb was the WR19 last season, which was fine but felt like a letdown from our lofty expectations for him.
Dak Prescott was back as the starting quarterback, but Lamb made marginal statistical improvements. He had 120 targets, 79 receptions, 1,178 total yards, and six total touchdowns. Lamb improved his fantasy points/game from 8.6 to 9.6 in 2021 and was also the target leader of the Cowboys, but he only increased his target share to 18.9% from 18.1%. That is not nearly enough to be an elite fantasy football wide receiver. He was 29th in the NFL for target share and 22nd for targets. Again, those are fine, but not great stats.
Thor: The Dark World had some fun moments, like when Lamb averaged 26.83 ppg in his four WR1 weeks. Unfortunately, that only accounted for 25% of his season. Lamb averaged 8.01 ppg in his nine weeks as WR3+ (56%). Again, Lamb had heroic games, but he lacked consistency. He was WR95 in redzone % of targets with 19%, while Amari Cooper was WR12 with 32.3%. Lamb needs more scoring opportunities to increase his touchdown output if he is ever going to leap to the elite. On a positive note, PFF graded Lamb as the 8th best wide receiver (84.1), just below Ja’Marr Chase (84.5).
Part 3: 2022 Outlook (Thor: Ragnarok)
The third Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok, was a massive success. It dared to be different from the previous films. It had humor with action and a bit of edginess. CeeDee Lamb is going into his third season. Amari Cooper is no longer on the team, making Lamb the bona fide WR1 of the Dallas Cowboys. Now is the time for Lamb to be different to rise to an elite level.
According to his coaches, we can expect CeeDee Lamb to play out wide more after Cooper’s departure. He was lined up in the slot 36% of the time last season. According to Reception Perception, Lamb demonstrated the ability to separate by having an above-average success rate on every route except the post (66.7% success). In addition, he dominated against man coverage (91st percentile) and press coverage (82nd percentile). So there is no doubt that Lamb can successfully take over Cooper’s role.
Last season, the Cowboys had a high-powered passing game: 6th in attempts (38/game), 3rd in completions (26.1/game), 3rd highest completion % (68.6%), 2nd in passing yards (282.4 yards/game), and 3rd in passing TDs (2.35/game). I do not believe in vacated targets because the player has to earn the targets, but this offense will create plenty of targets for Lamb to earn.
If Lamb can increase his target share to 25%, then he would be around 160 passes thrown his way. A 25% target share in 2021 would have tied him for 11th highest, and 160 targets would have been 6th most. Those are reasonable stats to hit, and Lamb can be a WR1 with that kind of volume.
CeeDee Lamb has a consensus ADP of WR7 and is the 18th pick in the draft. Just like Thor: Ragnarok, there is hype for Lamb going into his third season. Just like Thor: Ragnarok, Lamb, will be able to deliver and exceed expectations from that hype. Lamb is WORTHY of being a WR1 this season. He can hold the hammer and possess the power of THE WR1.
A Look Inside the Dallas Cowboys
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Zach focused on CeeDee Lamb in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Cowboys, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.
Dak Prescott: Coming off a career-high 37 touchdown passes, the Cowboys rewarded Prescott by trading his number one WR to Cleveland. Will it matter? The Cowboys still have plenty of weapons, so 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns are hardly unreachable. But the difference between a top 3 QB and a bottom half top 12 QB is rushing output. He scored 18 rushing TDs over his first three seasons but only seven since then. If Dak doesn’t run, he’s solid but not elite. – Josh Hudson
Ezekiel Elliott: Can we put some respek on Zeke’s name? Dude has averaged over 300 touches and 11 total touchdowns and a season over the last three years. People want to point to his lower fantasy points per game the last couple of years, but he plays hurt and still produces. Why would you not want 300-touch potential from your 3rd round pick? He’ll be 27 this year, and with a consistently heavy workload, it’s easy to understand people’s trepidation. But while we fade Zeke at 27, we celebrate Derrick Henry, coming off a foot injury, at 28 with a similarly high workload? Make it make sense! – Josh Hudson
Michael Gallup: On the surface, Gallup is a fantasy value. He has the most experience with Dak Prescott and this offense and is very cheap in drafts. Unfortunately, Gallup is also coming off an ACL injury, and the team added a WR in free agency and the draft. If he’s 100%, you want Gallup, but keep an eye on training camp reports as your draft approaches. – Ryan Weisse
Jalen Tolbert: Early reports are that Tolbert will be a starter early in the season for this offense. Does that mean in 3-WR sets, or is the team not confident in the return of Michael Gallup? Rookie wide receivers are hit and miss, with usually more miss than hit, but Tolbert is basically free in fantasy drafts. If you’re looking for a dart throw, you can pick worse than the WR3, or WR2, in last year’s #1 offense. – Ryan Weisse
Dalton Schultz: Schultz was the TE3 last season, and we did not come close to his ceiling. With Amari Cooper gone, there are more than seven targets per game to be divvied up. Schultz was 2nd on this team in targets last year, and it’s safe to say that Dak Prescott trusts him, so let’s pencil him in for over 125 targets this season. That is his floor, and the overall TE1 is his ceiling if he can hit 140-150 targets. All of that is possible, making his TE6 draft slot an immense value. – Ryan Weisse
We hope you enjoyed our look at CeeDee Lamb for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here.