Look around the NFL world, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t love the Dallas Cowboys selection of Oklahoma Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb at 17 overall of the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s rare to find a Dallas Cowboys draft selection that receives rave reviews from nearly every analyst and fan alike, but that was the case surrounding the Cowboys selection of arguably the top wide receiver in the draft.
Well, five weeks later, one such detractor made himself known yesterday when he argued the Dallas Cowboys should have made a selection on the defensive side of the ball.
Writing for Pro Football Talk, Peter King produced his latest power rankings where he had the Dallas Cowboys eighth. Here’s what he had to say about the Cowboys draft selection.
“I still feel like the Cowboys would have been wiser to go defense with the pick that nabbed Lamb—even better, a trade-down to get a corner and a safety in rounds one and two—after losing sack leader Robert Quinn and top cornerback Byron Jones in free agency.”
Peter King, Pro Football Talk
I’ll grant that the Cowboys lost two essential pieces to their defense from the 2019 season. However, even with Byron Jones and Robert Quinn, the Dallas Cowboys finished 19th in Football Outsiders DVOA after finishing ninth in 2018.
The Dallas Cowboys defense needed an infusion of talent, no doubt about it. The hope is, however, that the change in the defensive scheme, with an emphasis on aggression, will lead to more splash plays in terms of turnovers and sacks.
Regardless of the talent on the defensive side of the football and the perceived need at cornerback, safety, and edge rusher in the first round, there wasn’t a player on the board at pick number 17 as good or as impactful as CeeDee Lamb can be in year one and the future.
The Cowboys had an immediate need for a wide receiver to fill the void vacated by Randall Cobb. Michael Gallup’s contract expires after the 2021 season. Amari Cooper’s contract allows for quite a bit of team flexibility after 2021.
The Cowboys not only needed a short-term answer at wide receiver, and some insurance if Cooper struggles with injuries again this year, but they also needed a long-term investment at wide receiver. With the first-round selection, CeeDee Lamb will be under contract for four years, and the Cowboys have an option for the 2024 season as well.
Lamb was arguably the best wide receiver in the draft, and the Cowboys had him as the sixth-best player on their draft board. The talent and the value were a perfect match for the Cowboys selection at 17. He was simply too good of a player to pass up.
Lamb’s ability to play both in the slot and on the outside allows offensive coordinator Kellen Moore the opportunity to get creative with his deployment of Cooper and Lamb. CeeDee Lamb is one of the rare receivers that can win in so many ways. He can take short passes for long gains. He can win down the field. He can be a possession receiver. He can do it all. Lamb’s ability is the perfect investment for a team that is about to invest heavily in its franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott.
While Dak Prescott detractors will argue that the talent around him is the reason he’s not as good as some of his peers, surrounding your quarterback with talent is never a bad call.
Perhaps taking CeeDee Lamb was a luxury pick in a deep wide receiver draft, but it was far and wide the best move the Dallas Cowboys could have made. Even if they traded back, there’s no guarantee they get a player as dynamic as CeeDee Lamb in the NFL Draft.
The defense may not be as good in 2020 as it was in 2018 or 2019, but reaching for a defensive player over a top 5-10 player would not have been prudent drafting. As the NFL has evolved into a passing league that uses 11-personnel around 70% of the time, investing in your passing offense and your quarterback is never a wrong way to go.
The selection of the CeeDee Lamb was a smart one on draft night, and five weeks later, it’s still a smart decision. Come September, and I bet Peter King sings a different tune.