The Dallas Cowboys got a steal at No. 17 overall in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb.
Joining a receiving corps that already features Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys' offense is stacked with Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott under center and two-time NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Behind the second iteration of the Great Wall of Dallas, there is no doubt about how effective the Cowboys offense will be in 2020.
Where curiosity exists is in the production of Lamb. Though the former Fort Bend Foster product has high upside for his career, his rookie year may have a bit of a governor due to the production and seniority of Cooper and Gallup. What offerings can one really expect of Lamb in his rookie season?
Cynthia Frelund, the NFL Network's analytics expert, ranked Lamb as her No. 1 rookie wideout. In addition, Lamb was also ranked as her No. 38 overall receiver.
"Looking at his slot production (24.2 yards per reception from the slot, the second-most in FBS, per Pro Football Focus) and his ability to operate in the middle of the field, and factoring in how defenses facing Dallas will also be forced to account for Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Lamb has the highest rookie wideout ranking in my model," Frelund wrote.
Will Lamb finish as the highest rookie receiver in the NFL when the 2020 season plays out?
In the history of the Cowboys, Bob Hayes had the best rookie season for a receiver in 1965 with 47 catches for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 1986, running back Herschel Walker bested Hayes' receptions total with 76, but the receiving yards and touchdowns are records that still stand. The Olympic Gold Medalist revolutionized the game and forced defenses to consider playing safeties deeper to prevent quarterback Don Meredith from hitting Hayes with the bomb.
One-thousand-yard rookie receivers are few and far between, even in today's pass-happy NFL. While the Tennessee Titans' A.J. Brown earned that distinction in 2019, one would have to go back to 2016 to see New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas cresting that mark as a rookie. Since 2010, there have only been eight total (and Cooper happens to be one of them).
For Lamb to have the opportunity to reach 1,000 yards, he would have to overtake the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
In the history of the Cowboys, there have been just eight rookie receivers to catch 30-plus passes. Michael Gallup with 33 in 2018, Terrance Williams with 44 in 2013, and Dez Bryant with 45 in 2010 are the most recent examples.
Williams may be the model for what to expect with Lamb. The third-round rookie from Baylor was the third receiver behind Bryant and Pro Bowler Miles Austin. The 6-2, 210 wideout caught 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns. Williams also had more reps due to Austin missing five games due to hamstring injuries.
The Williams model also falls in line with new Dallas coach Mike McCarthy's track record with the Green Bay Packers. From 2006-18, there were just five rookie receivers with 30-plus catches. Four of them became household names: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Davante Adams. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the outlier who could join that group.
Lamb may not turn in 1,000 yards or 10-plus touchdowns in his rookie year, but he can still be a very formidable part of the Cowboys' passing game that defensive coordinators have to consider each week.
How many TDs do you think CeeDee will have in his first season? Share your predictions with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.
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