CeeDee Lamb Will Make a Fantasy Football Splash Right Away in Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys made one of the biggest splashes of the 2020 NFL Draft -- at least in terms of potential fantasy football impact -- by landing former Oklahoma Sooners' receiver CeeDee Lamb with the 17th pick in the first round.
The Cowboys weren't expected to pursue a receiver early in the draft, but Lamb unexpectedly fell into their lap. As a result, he doesn't have as clear of a path to a significant rookie-year target share as most early wide receiver selections. That doesn't mean you should ignore Lamb in your fantasy drafts, however, as the Cowboys' potent offense should have enough firepower to supply value to Lamb in addition to Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper.
To determine where you should target Lamb in your fantasy drafts, let's take a look at what opportunities he may see in the Cowboys' offense and how likely he is to carve out a reliable role.
Cooper and Gallup were the Cowboys' primary weapons down the field, but, on shorter routes, Witten and Cobb saw a significant chunk of the workload. Dallas lost 36 percent of its targets between zero and 10 yards downfield (119 total targets), according to Sports Info Solutions.
Those shorter routes are exactly where Lamb excels, and he will likely emerge as the most dangerous after-the-catch threat in the Dallas offense in that role. In 2019 at Oklahoma, Lamb averaged 11.2 yards after the catch per reception.
There's also some reason to believe Lamb could cut into the workload of Gallup and Cooper.
Last year there was a substantial talent gap between the Cowboys' top two receivers and their number-three, Cobb, who is clearly on the downside of his career. Despite this reality, Cobb still saw 83 targets (5.5 per game) and played a meaningful role in the offense. Lamb, however, is right up there with Cooper and Gallup in terms of talent. and the Cowboys should want to feed him to the ball to help develop his chemistry with Prescott.
So while Cobb played a necessary role in the offense last year, Dallas probably never felt the need to force him the ball. This year, there could be situations where Dallas takes a more purposeful approach to involving Lamb, which could elevate his target share above Cobb's share from 2019.
Game Script Could Play a Role
It's hard to know exactly how the Cowboys' offense may change this year with new head coach Mike McCarthy taking over. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is still around, but McCarthy, a former offensive coordinator himself, will obviously want to put his stamp on the playbook.
So take this data with a grain a salt, but it's worth noting that Cobb -- who Lamb is most directly replacing in the offense -- played a specific role in the Dallas offense based on the game script.
Thirty-eight percent of Cobb's total targets came in the second half when the score was within 10 points. In other words, when the game was tight, Dallas leaned even more heavily on those short, safer routes on which Cobb excelled -- and, as we already established, we should expect Lamb to take over that role.
In the 13 games in which Cobb, Cooper and Gallup all were on the field, here's the second-half target share in those 10-point games.
It's hard to say exactly how we should value this specific role, but it's worth pointing it out to prove that the Cobb/Lamb role in the offense is more than just the leftovers from Gallup and Cooper. There were specific situations in which Cobb became a focal point of the offense, and we can probably expect Lamb to step directly into that role -- and maybe even expand upon it.
How to Value Lamb
Since we're assuming Lamb takes on a similar workload to Cobb, we should use Cobb's 2019 fantasy production as a baseline for Lamb's expectations. Based on PPR scoring, Cobb averaged 10.3 fantasy points per game, which ranked 42nd among receivers who played a minimum of 12 games.
According to ADP data from BestBall10 drafts since June 1, Lamb has been the 44th receiver selected in 12-team drafts, coming off the board in the ninth round.
If we're assuming Cobb's production is an easily attainable goal for Lamb, this makes Lamb a potential steal in this range. At this stage of his career, Lamb is a more explosive threat than Cobb -- he had nine touchdowns of 25 yards or more last season at Oklahoma -- and is likely to generate a some big plays, which elevates his weekly ceiling much higher than Cobb's.
Our model has Lamb ranked as the WR40.
There's always some risk involved in drafting rookies, but you should be relatively comfortable trusting Lamb to quickly settle into his role given the modest immediate expectations in Dallas. And if you buy into Lamb's big-play ability and believe his ceiling far outpaces Cobb's 2019 production, you can easily justify taking him at -- or even higher -- than his current ADP.