Even with losses of Randal Cobb to the Houston Texans and Travis Frederick to retirement, the Dallas Cowboys offense was going to be good in 2020. Going into the NFL Draft, most observers felt the Dallas Cowboys needed to add a wide receiver in the draft to replace the production vacated by Randall Cobb. Drafting CeeDee Lamb, however, was a pipe dream that most didn’t believe would come true.
Then it did.
With the 17th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys not only got the best wide receiver in the draft but put their offense in a position to be one of the best in the NFL in 2020. Adding CeeDee Lamb to an offense that already featured Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup at wide receiver, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard at running back, an ascending tight end in Blake Jarwin, and their heralded offensive line just seems unfair. This is a team that is loaded with talent offensively for Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy to work with.
What’s even more impressive is the versatility of the players they’ll get to deploy.
We’ve seen Amari Cooper work effectively out of the slot. CeeDee Lamb had a lot of success at Oklahoma as a big slot receiver. Tony Pollard was drafted with the idea that his versatility could lend him to getting some work at wide receiver. Ezekiel Elliott has done some impressive work when lined up out wide in an empty backfield formation. While Blake Jarwin will get a lot of work as an in-line tight end, splitting him into the slot or out wide gives the Dallas Cowboys opportunities to dictate what the opposing defense does. And while he hasn’t been an impact player for the Cowboys, Jamize Olawale’s pass-catching ability figures to make them more versatile on offense.
With all that versatility, the Dallas Cowboys will be able to gameplan to exploit particular matchups from week to week. The versatility allows them to force the defense to make certain decisions presnap, and they won’t be able to account for all of the options that Dak Prescott will have at his disposal.
Cowboys 2020 pass-catcher corps in 2019: Amari Cooper: 8th/86 WRs in yards/route run Michael Gallup: 6th in NFL in receiving yards/game CeeDee Lamb: 1st in nation in yards/route run from slot Blake Jarwin: 6th among NFL tight ends in yards/target
In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys deployed their offense in 11-personnel around 61% of the time. That was 11th in the NFL per Sharp Football Stats. With CeeDee Lamb added to the wide receiver mix, I’d imagine that percentage shoots to the top of the NFL leaderboard. The Dallas Cowboys should be 11-personnel and 20-personnel (two running backs and no tight ends) at least 70% of the time moving forward.
Using three-wide receiver formations shouldn’t limit how much they run the football with Ezekiel Elliott, either. In 11-personnel, the Dallas Cowboys were successful on 56% of their rushing attempts. The only other formation that had a better success rate was 23 (two running backs, three tight ends), but they only ran out of that formation one time. Out of 11-personnel, the Cowboys ran the football 193 times and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Compare that to 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end) where they were successful on 54% of their rush attempts but only averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
Using 11-personnel will allow the Dallas Cowboys to take advantage of mismatches.
If they split Blake Jarwin into the slot or out wide and the defense moves a linebacker out there, he’s got a mismatch in the passing game. A linebacker pulled out of the box is also a win for the running game as they’d have one less body in the box to slow the run. If teams decide they want to play coverage against the Dallas Cowboys slew of wide receivers, then Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are going to have some nice boxes to run against.
If teams want to load up to stop the run, as has been the focus for four years, they better have really good cover corners to handle Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb in one on one coverage on the outside.
With their weapons, the Dallas Cowboys will be such a problematic solution for opposing defensive coordinators, and most defenses won’t have enough talent to account for everything the Dallas Cowboys will want to do offensively.
For years now, the Dallas Cowboys running game has been one of the best in the NFL and an absolute strength for this team. In 2019, Dak Prescott proved that they could be a passing team as well. Adding CeeDee Lamb to a team that already featured two one thousand yard receivers is downright unfair.
It’s not a stretch to think that after a career year in 2019 that Dak Prescott could be looking at another career year in 2020 with the weapons he has to throw to. Last year, they were an incredibly explosive offense. Cooper, Gallup, and Randall Cobb each averaged 15 yards per reception last year. At OU, Lamb averaged more than 17 yards per reception for his three-year career, including 21 yards per receptions in 2019.
A dangerous offense just got more dangerous for the next several years. Amari Cooper just signed a five-year contract. Michael Gallup is under contract through the 2021 season, and CeeDee Lamb’s rookie contract will go through 2023 with a team option for 2024. With the salary cap set to increase by a considerable margin in 2021 and 2022, it’s possible the Dallas Cowboys could keep these three together beyond 2021.
Though defense may have been the initial focus for the Dallas Cowboys in the draft, this was such a savvy move by Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Will McClay, and Mike McCarthy. They fortified what was already a strength. NFL defensive coordinators will be working long hours to try and figure out what to do to slow down this offense.
In this episode of Inside The Cowboys, John Williams from InsideTheStar.com is joined by Kevin Turner of the About Them Cowboys Podcast on The Athletic to recap the 2020 NFL Draft.