When CeeDee Lamb fell to the Dallas Cowboys at pick 17 of the 2020 NFL Draft, the draft community was floored. Regarded as the top WR in the draft by most experts, traits won out for two other teams, dropping Lamb to Dallas and essentially sealing the fate of a certain, Amari Cooper.
Cooper, playing on a brand new multiyear deal, had an escape hatch in his contract after year two. If CeeDee developed into the receiver everyone thought he’d develop, Cooper’s days were numbered. After posting over 2000 yards in his first two seasons, Cooper was indeed jettisoned, pushing Lamb into the No. 1 role and beginning a new chapter in Dallas Cowboys lore.
CeeDee Lamb is sure to explode in 2022, but what exactly can fans expect from the Dallas Cowboys third year receiver?
Before we get to Lamb specifically, let’s first set the stage in Dallas: This offseason Dallas lost Cooper and Cedrick Wilson at the WR position. With Michael Gallup out the first few games as well (2-3 most likely), the Cowboys will roll into 2022 without three of their top four WRs from last year. That’s a significant blow to the team that was fourth in air yards, and represents a fundamental shift in their attack going into 2022.
In addition to the losses at WR, the Dallas Cowboys also suffered severe casualties across their offensive line. Dallas will start the season without two of their starters from 2021 and have questions across the board at all spots not manned by Zack Martin.
To call the O-line an issue this year is an understatement. Even with the addition of Jason Peters, the Cowboys are ultra-thin at the tackle position and could be limited in play-calling as a result.
How good is CeeDee Lamb?
Last season CeeDee improved in nearly all areas of the game. He was effective against all coverages but particularly against man coverage were he had a 91% success rate finishing in the top-7 of the NFL.
His 20.4% target share ranked 36th in the NFL which is pretty respectable considering the Cowboys had Cooper, Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Cedrick Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard also getting their opportunities.
Lamb will enter the 2022 season the unquestioned leader of the pass-catchers and his stellar training camp only solidifies that statement.
Kellen Moore has long preferred an offense that asks defenses to pick their poison. That’s a luxury you have when you’re loaded offensively. But the Dallas Cowboys are no longer “loaded” in 2022, begging the question – will Kellen scheme to give CeeDee opportunities?
Based on training camp and various statements made, I have to answer in the affirmative.
The Dallas Cowboys have been making an effort to put CeeDee Lamb in position to make plays in training camp. After playing just 32.3% of his snaps in the slot last year, the Cowboys seem determined to get their playmaker inside more often in 2022.
As a rookie, Lamb was second in the NFL in slot rate, so the concept of playing heavily inside isn’t foreign, by any means. Armed with a better understanding of playing slot, expect Lamb to have his most efficient season as a pro, racking up gaudy volume stats along the way.
Based on coverage trends (increasing number of 2-high looks) the average air yards and average distance of target will likely drop. But CeeDee has never been a field stretcher in this offense so the adjustment and impact isn’t significant.
CeeDee was positively graded in all routes but the post route in 2021. He’s a complete package at WR and has the entire route tree at his disposal.
Even with the Dallas Cowboys emphasis on the running game, Lamb will have a career season based on increased target share and more player specific play design. He won’t be fed like Cooper Kupp or anything, but look at what Sean McVay has done as a sort of inspiration for Moore.
Prediction: 50% slot usage with 1,350 yards and eight TDs