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A Headline-Making Year for Receivers
In the 2022 season, wide receivers made waves with their impressive performances. Although Justin Jefferson couldn't break Calvin Johnson's record of 1,964 receiving yards, he came close with 1,809 yards. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and A.J. Brown made an impact after switching teams, setting new single-season receiving yardage records for their respective franchises. It's understandable that CeeDee Lamb's performance may have been overshadowed by these standout performances.
Lamb entered the season with high expectations, boasting an ADP of WR6. While he finished as WR8 on a per-game basis, averaging 17.7 PPR points, he still didn't receive the recognition he deserved. Despite his lofty ADP, Lamb is being undervalued.
Using Footballguys Historical Data Dominator, we can find 22 other seasons (since 2000) that met or exceeded Lamb's 2022 totals.
Table: Receivers with at least 107 receptions, 1359 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns (2000-Present)
Here are some key observations:
- Only two players, DeAndre Hopkins and Justin Jefferson, were as young as CeeDee Lamb when achieving these lofty benchmarks.
- Justin Jefferson experienced a notable increase in production the following season, with 20 more catches and 193 additional yards. He narrowly missed making the list again by just one touchdown.
- Six players achieved the statistical criteria in two or more seasons.
- Three players, namely Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, and Marvin Harrison, made immediate repeat appearances on the list after their initial inclusion. On average, they saw increases of 22 receptions and 218 yards in their second season.
While it would be unrealistic to expect CeeDee Lamb's production to precisely mirror those specific improvements of 20 catches and 200 yards, it is worth noting that multiple players have made significant leaps in their second season.
Looking ahead to 2023, Lamb may encounter obstacles that could impact his production. The team is undergoing a transition in offensive coordinators, with Brian Schottenheimer taking over from Kellen Moore, who served for four seasons. Additionally, Lamb will face increased competition for targets with the arrival of Brandin Cooks and the return of Michael Gallup from injury.
Realistically, what kind of improvement can we expect from Lamb? How will his production react to a changing offensive environment in Dallas? Does he have room to exceed his WR6 ADP?
Lamb's career alignment has been interesting. As a rookie, playing on a team with Amari Cooper and Gallup, he played almost exclusively out of the slot. With Gallup injured to start 2021, that alignment shifted as Lamb covered Gallup's outside position until he returned in Week 10. But in 2022, we saw the usage fantasy managers love to see, with Lamb playing both inside and outside at a near-equal rate.
This piece from the spring of 2022 shows why this type of progression is so important. Lamb served in a slot safety role to start his career, playing significantly fewer snaps than Cooper and Gallup (730 vs. 943 and 1,003) as he came off the field in sub-packages. His ADoT of 9.3 reflected this usage, and it spun off a strong catch rate at 66.7%. His second season saw significant increases in snap count (942) and a rising ADoT (10.3), attributed to replacing Gallup outside for a substantial portion of the season. Still, his catch rate dropped a bit (65%).
In 2022, his snap rate exploded to 1,128. His ADoT stayed constant from the prior year (10.1), and his catch rate increased to 67%.
Fantasy is a volume game; this usage is the key to unlocking more.
Lamb's primary differentiator is effectiveness in all areas of the field. Lamb is one of the best downfield receivers, displaying elite route-running prowess. This effectiveness and versatility allow him to be featured on any passing concept at any depth, working out of any formation. This ability gives him an elite volume ceiling. If he hopes to close the gap on Justin Jefferson as the overall WR1, he still needs to boost his volume even off a career-high 156 targets. Jefferson, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, and Michael Thomas have all cleared 180 targets in a season since 2019.
But even with this growth, can the changes on offense give Lamb a path to that volume?
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