The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
CeeDee Lamb enters his third season poised to take another step into the league’s elite. After a strong rookie season (WR24), he improved in Year 2 (WR19) but still fell short of the weekly dominance fantasy managers expect from their No. 1 receivers. But his running mate, Amari Cooper, now calls Cleveland home, and Lamb is being handed the unquestioned alpha role for the first time. With compelling continuity among the coaching staff, offensive playbook, and supporting cast, Lamb could easily reward drafters with the first of many consecutive top-12 seasons.
- Lamb has an alpha-receiver pedigree
- Dallas has an elite offense
- His target share is heading higher
Pressing the Advantage
Heads turned when the Dallas Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb with the 17th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Dallas already had a top-5 passing offense and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and the team had plenty of needs at other roster spots. But Jerry Jones and his personnel department couldn’t pass up Lamb’s explosiveness. He was not only the top-rated player left on their draft board, but adding him to an already explosive offense would allow them to press the advantage.
Lamb’s neither the biggest nor the fastest receiver in this class, but he excels as a route runner, a pass catcher, and in the open field with and without the ball in his hands. At first, I was surprised he earned the top spot on my board, expecting Jerry Jeudy to be that player. …He’s a dangerous open-field player with a developed route tree as well as acrobatics and toughness as a pass catcher. His quickness and ball-tracking are good enough to earn time as a split end, especially during play-action sequences or vertical routes against zone coverage. He can also play flanker against tight man coverage and use his route running and comfort with physicality to uncover and win in the middle of the field on slants, digs, and crossing routes as well as spot routes, curls, and comebacks at the sideline. The slot would give Lamb the greatest advantage to win deep as well as maximize his prowess after the catch. He’d thrive in Air Raid and West Coast Offenses or in the slot with an Erhardt-Perkins scheme.
Lamb has played well in two seasons but hasn’t become a true No. 1 receiver.
Top 30 Career Starts (Years 1-2 Fantasy Points) for WRs debuting since 2002
His 422.7 fantasy points in two seasons rank 17th among receivers who debuted in the last 20 years. Good? Yes. Elite? No. But scanning down the list, you’ll see a litany of excellent receivers who became No. 1 options in Year 3 and beyond. Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Tyreek Hill, and DeAndre Hopkins are just a few receivers who did less in their first two seasons and become consistent fantasy stars.
Dallas’ Offense is Elite
- Total Yards – 6,904 (1st in the NFL)
- Total Points – 434 (6th)
- Passing Yards – 4,751 (2nd)
- Passing Touchdowns – 30 (5th)
- Net Yards per Attempt – 7.7 (1st)
- Rushing Yards – 2,153 (5th)
- Rushing Touchdowns – 18 (7th)
- Yards per Rush – 4.8 (5th)
Head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore have created a balanced unit that can win multiple ways and exploit defensive mismatches. And although the offensive line doesn’t have the star power of five years ago, it’s still among the NFL’s best. According to Pro Football Focus, Dallas ranked 1st in run blocking and 2nd in pass blocking effectiveness last season. Footballguys offensive line expert Matt Bitonti projects Dallas as the No. 6 offensive line entering the season.
Lamb’s target share of 18.0% and 18.8% in 2020 and 2021, respectively, is respectable but more in line with a No. 2 receiver. Over the last three years, the top-12 fantasy receivers have averaged 24.4% target share, and top-6 receivers average 26.4%. Can Lamb’s volume increase commensurately? After analyzing the 2021 targets no longer on the roster, you should feel good about his chances.
2021 Cowboys No Longer with the Team
- Amari Cooper – 104 targets (16.3% of Dallas’ targets)
- Cedrick Wilson – 61 targets (9.6%)
- Blake Jarwin – 17 targets (2.7%)
- Malik Turner – 16 targets (2.5%)
- Corey Clement – 7 targets (1.1%)
- Total Vacated Targets – 205 targets (32.2%)
Although the Cowboys added veteran James Washington and rookie Jalen Tolbert to the mix, Lamb has more than 200 targets he can share with the newcomers. Let’s say Lamb only gets 1/4 of those targets, we’re still talking about his target share jumping 25.3% -- right in line with the fantasy elite.
- 2021 Targets – 120 (18.8%)
- + ¼ of Vacated Targets – 41 (6.4%)
- Implied Targets – 161 (25.3%)
PROJECTIONS AND STATS
Sometimes fantasy analysis is straightforward. CeeDee Lamb is immensely talented, a skilled route runner, and already dominates zone coverage. Amari Cooper is now a Cleveland Brown, and Lamb will step into the No. 1 role. Michael Gallup is talented but oft-injured. And neither Jalen Tolbert nor James Washington is a credible threat to upset the pecking order. Lamb is in-line for a significant target share increase, which has been the only thing keeping him from a top-12 fantasy campaign. Dak Prescott loves him and remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. With an excellent offensive line, established offensive system, and premier role, Lamb will be an every-week fantasy star if healthy.
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