Why the Slide?: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Six years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Four years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.
Over the course of the leadup to the 2020 NFL Draft, Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb became the consensus top receiver in the draft around the league. Many teams thought Lamb offered more size and versatility for the next level than Alabama wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Yet when the players started coming off the board, both Ruggs and Jeudy were selected before Lamb. Many thought Lamb would definitely go in the top-12 picks, but he slid to the start of the back half of the first round.
In speaking to team sources, Ruggs went over Lamb because the Raiders coveted game-breaking speed. Ruggs will be one of the fastest players in the NFL next season, and Lamb is not a speed demon. The Broncos made the same decision, preferring the speed of Jeudy over Lamb. Thus, Lamb slid to being the third receiver off the board because teams wanted speed.
The Dallas Cowboys ended Lamb's fall with the 17-overall pick, and they are a great landing spot for Lamb. With Amari Cooper across from him and an excellent rushing attack led by Ezekiel Elliott, Lamb should see plenty of single coverage in the early portion of his career. While Lamb will start out as a No. 2 or 3 receiver for the Cowboys with Michael Gallup, it would not surprise me if, over time, Lamb becomes the most consistent wide out for Dallas. With his tremendous route-running, hands, and yards-after-catch skills, I could see Lamb being more consistently productive than the rollercoaster production that Cooper typically yields. Come 2021 or 2022, Lamb could emerge as the No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys. With a quality quarterback and offensive line in Dallas, the sky is the limit for Lamb, and I think he could be a Pro Bowler early in his NFL career.
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