Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb has emerged as WR1

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

After missing the playoffs in 2019 with another mediocre 8-8 record, the Dallas Cowboys were drafting in the middle of the first round at #17. Drafting in the middle of the first round became a familiar landing spot under the regime of former head coach, Jason Garrett.

Heading into the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys were the reigning NFC champions and the prohibitive favorites to repeat because they were the best team in the division with the best quarterback to boot. So, when the Cowboys did not make the playoffs in 2019, the expectation in the upcoming 2020 draft was to select a player to fix an immediate need on defense.

Firstly, nobody saw the Dallas Cowboys selecting a wide receiver in the middle of the first round because the team already had Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown. Therefore, drafting a wide receiver was an afterthought unless it was playmaker like CeeDee Lamb.

With a tremendous upside, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, CeeDee Lamb, has solidified himself as a legitimate WR#1 threat.

When Cooper was unwisely traded to the Cleveland Browns for a pack of skittles and a fifth-round pick, the Dallas Cowboys fan base went into a frenzy. The outburst was justified because Coop was the best wide out on the team and gave Dallas the most explosive receiver unit in the league. Trading Coop and waiting on Gallup to recover from an ACL injury put all of the pressure on Lamb-who had previously feasted on single-man coverage because of all the attention Coop received.

Add Dak Prescott missing five games and an offensive line ranked in the bottom of the league in pass protection to the equation, watching Lamb ascend to WR#1 status says more about his talent and work ethic to overcome those odds.

Let us take a quick look at the rise of CeeDee.

Rising to WR#1 status and embracing the legacy of wearing the #88 jersey

Like I stated in the above paragraph, nobody foresaw Dallas selecting a wide receiver with their first-round pick because they desperately needed defensive help. Going into the 2020 NFL draft, Lamb was viewed as a top-10 player who would be long gone before the Dallas Cowboys selection. Even if Lamb fell within their grasps, the thinking was Dallas would do a hard pass.

But when several teams bypassed Lamb for other receivers and other players, Dallas did one of the best things ever in franchise history and selected the All-American talent out of Oklahoma.

In three years in Oklahoma, Lamb was consistently one of the best receivers in college and a highlight reel with his fantastic touchdown catches. The Dallas Cowboys got more than a steal with Lamb and one of the primary reasons they said good-bye to Cooper because…

The coaching staff and the Jones’ knew Lamb was a special talent just waiting to explode as a true WR#1. The season did not start out that way with Lamb dropping easy passes, not running the correct route, and simply basic miscommunication between him the quarterbacks-Cooper Rush and Dak. Despite these fixable flaws, Lamb corrected those issues and became better in every game.

When Dak was out, Lamb became the featured wideout and one of Rush’s favorite targets as he caught the go-ahead touchdown in a must win game against the New York Giants that kept Dallas afloat in the newly competitive NFC East. Looking back, the victory over the Giants was Lamb’s coming of age as a primary receiver because he made up for an easy dropped pass earlier in the game that appeared to be costly.

Ironically, the dropped passes had been a major concern but just like a talented receiver, Lamb always bounces back with either a touchdown or clutch reception to put the negatives to rest. It is the main reason why he is Dak’s favorite receiver and why Lamb received his second consecutive Pro Bowl nod with 107 receptions for 1,359, and nine touchdowns while averaging 12.7 yards a reception.

Lamb was targeted 156 times and came within four receptions of tying the franchise single-season reception record of 111 (held by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin). That is an amazing feat considering that Lamb played five games with Coop as the backup, so imagine how many more receptions and touchdowns he would have had Dak not missed those five games. My Gawd!

But playing with a different signal caller is nothing new for Lamb because he caught passes from three different and current NFL quarterbacks while at Oklahoma (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts). Two of those were Heisman-winning quarterbacks and the other one is in the MVP conversation with the NFL’s best record (14-3) and #1 seed in the playoffs.

It is no wonder why Lamb lived up to the hype in his rookie season when he made an acrobatic touchdown catch against the Minnesota Vikings. Regardless of the quarterback, Lamb is lethal after he catches the ball. Even when Coop was here, Lamb routinely caught short or long passes and took it too pay dirt.

Earlier in the season, the critics lambasted the young receiver for his miscues and wondered if he had makings to be the primary receiver. Besides dropping catchable passes/bad route running, the critics wanted to see Lamb routinely beat double-coverage and make those key plays. But anyone watching Lamb could see he is too talented to fail at NOT being WR#1.

For example, Lamb started highlighting his ability to not just beat double coverage but to make difficult catches while in double coverage. It is one of the reasons why Dak routinely throws into those tight windows of double coverage because he believes Lamb can make a play.

Also, it explains Dak’s league-leading 15 interceptions. Of course, all of the interceptions are not on Dak, but you get my point. 

To date, Lamb’s best game as a primary receiver was against those evil Philadelphia Eagles where he put on a clinic in route running, catching the ball, and scoring touchdowns. Lamb took his talents against one of the perceived “best secondaries” in the league and made them pay dearly. Whether playing outside the numbers, in the slot, or in motion, Lamb couldn’t be stopped as he recorded 10 receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

This is the player Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones envisioned when they gifted him the legendary #88 jersey. Wearing that jersey is reserved for the best receiver expected carry the load and bring home a Lombardi trophy. Hall of Famers Drew Pearson and Irvin have four Super Bowl rings combined and set the bar high. Dez Bryant had the talent but never had the opportunity to play in the big dance.

As of right now, Lamb might not be better than his predecessors, but he has a higher ceiling than them because he possesses all of the traits each one of them carried. He has not reached his full potential yet because is only 23 years old with room to grow. Wow!

For sake of discussion, I predicted Lamb would have a breakout season five months ago, so I am not surprised at all to see him shine in his new role as WR1. I am surprised it took the Dallas Cowboys all season long to find him some help by signing T.Y. Hilton.

We must be mindful that Lamb is playing at a Pro Bowl level without any help from his supporting cast of Gallup and Noah Brown for different reasons. Gallup is still trying to come into his own from his ACL injury, and Brown is doing his best to compensate. Furthermore, this supporting cast rank last in creating separation, which allows defenses to focus primarily on Lamb.

Fun fact: Lamb leads the league with five receiving touchdowns with shift or motion pre-snap. And Lamb is dealing with an offensive coordinator (Kellen Moore) who does not play to his strengths with his basic playbook.

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Speed, toughness, good route runner, constantly beats double coverage, hard worker, clutch, scores touchdowns and is a natural born leader. Those are the qualities you want from your primary receiver.

Especially if he wears the #88 jersey. And that represents the makeup of Cedarian DeLeon “CeeDee” Lamb.