Based on early returns this season, it’s looking like the NFL’s rookie wide receiver class could evolve into a generational group.
There were 13 wide receivers taken in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft as franchises placed bets on the future of their passing games with a frequency rarely seen. For comparison, there were nine wide receivers selected in the first two rounds of the 2019 draft, seven in the 2018 draft and six in the 2017 draft.
The Cowboys, for all of their misery this year, made one of the wiser playmaking choices in taking CeeDee Lamb at No. 17 overall. Lamb is likely to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in his debut season despite joining a crowded offense that already featured Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. His acrobatic touchdown catch against the Vikings this past Sunday gave him a defining play, and a Thanksgiving matchup with the Washington Football Team will provide the chance to bolster his national standing.
“Unbelievable body control, discipline and focus,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Lamb. “I go back to draft day and I’m so glad he’s a Dallas Cowboy.”
Of the 13 wide receivers selected in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft, five are already playing at a star level. Lamb is part of that top tier even after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was lost for the season to an ankle injury, diminishing the quality of throws Lamb receives.
The former Oklahoma college football standout ranks only behind Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson in rookie receiving yards.
Lamb’s worst game of the season came against Washington on Oct. 25 when he didn’t haul in any receptions in a 25-3 defeat. Washington’s pass defense has been one of the NFL’s best, but Lamb could benefit from a healthy Andy Dalton in Thursday’s rematch. Dalton was removed because of injury midway through the first matchup.
Dallas is still in the playoff hunt with a 3-7 record because of how bad its NFC East rivals have been. The Eagles lead the division at 3-6-1.
So, Lamb remains in position to make a genuine difference in a division race at 21 years old, just as the Cowboys hoped he would when they took him in the first round. His diving grab Sunday suggests he can produce without passes being placed in precise locations — a benchmark of greatness that might carry outsized importance down the stretch with Dalton under center.
“CeeDee is so good at balls in the air,” Dalton told reporters. “For me, I just try to lay it up there and let him go have a chance at it.”