CeeDee Lamb took the NFL by storm in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys. He provided big plays in the passing game and a few highlights as a runner as well. His impact was felt immediately as the Cowboys were forced to throw a lot in the first few weeks of the season.
Prior to the Dak Prescott injury, Lamb was 10th in in the NFL in targets, ninth in receptions, and sixth in yards. He led the league in snaps from the slot through the first five weeks and was second in 2020 behind Juju Smith-Schuster. Lamb was ninth in the NFL in yards against zone coverage.
He led the Cowboys in receiving yards despite 14 fewer targets and 10 fewer receptions than Amari Cooper. Lamb averaged a full four yards per reception more than Cooper. That's just how dynamic Lamb was in the passing game.
When Prescott targeted Lamb, he had a passer rating of 127.4. When targeting Cooper, it was just 87.3.
Lamb averaged more yards after catch per reception than Cooper in those first five weeks of the season. And Lamb averaged more yards per route run than Cooper in that same time frame.
Though it's an incredibly small sample size to extrapolate from, it's clear that Lamb was a focal point in the passing game and a favorite of quarterback Dak Prescott.
One thing that's important to note is that Amari Cooper was the guy that drew the focus of defensive coordinators week in and week out, not Lamb. Cooper was having to see more double coverage or linebackers shading his direction. That isn't to say Lamb didn't see extra attention, but teams went into 2020 focusing on how to slow down Cooper in the passing game. Though CeeDee Lamb was highly regarded coming into the NFL, he was still a rookie and Cooper was the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
But that attention could start shifting CeeDee Lamb's way if he's able to pick up where he left off last season.
Though drops were an issue at times, the Cowboys quarterbacks continued to throw to him in big moments. He was second in the NFL in first down receptions from the slot and fifth in touchdowns. All while the quarterback play was seriously diminished after the Dak Prescott injury.
Heading into his second season, it appears that CeeDee Lamb is set to diversify his alignment in the formation. After playing nearly all of his snaps from the slot in 2020, Kellen Moore is preparing to move Lamb and the other wide receivers around in 2021.
Formation diversity is huge for an offense as it's another tool that can help offenses be less predictable. If on any given series any of the Cowboys big three at wide receiver can be lined up in the slot or outside, it puts more tension on the defense. The Cowboys can dictate matchups with their alignments finding mismatches on the other side of the ball.
Though he'll still be primarily a slot player in 2021 (because he was so effective there), Lamb's transition to playing more snaps outside will only aid his development and give the Cowboys an answer to their long-term questions at wide receiver.
Coming out of Oklahoma it was clear that CeeDee Lamb was a special player but it can often take a season or two for wide receiver potential to be realized. Lamb hit the ground running in his rookie season. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff and Dak Prescott relied upon him to be the big-time threat in the passing game and he delivered.
CeeDee Lamb was one of the most exciting Dallas Cowboys to watch in 2020. He made big plays and tough catches throughout his rookie season. With Dak Prescott coming back and an offseason to process his rookie season (what went well, what didn't), Lamb looks poised to take another huge step for the Cowboys.