While evaluating prospects, I sometimes get caught up in "my type of player." And while my WR rankings still reflect that to a certain extent, I had to dig deeper to rank CeeDee Lamb as my wide receiver one in this class.
The trait I value most is movement skills. That sums up a few different factors that include footwork, hips, change of direction, and overall how fluid of an athlete that player is. Guys on the high end of that look like Alabama prospect Jerry Jeudy, where it leaps out at you. You see how well he puts his foot in the ground and how he effortlessly changes direction leaving defenders confused in space.
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Bigger receivers typically have a tougher time with this. But the odd thing with Lamb is, although he plays that brand of football, he's not the biggest of receivers.
So, who is Ceedee Lamb?
Lamb stands a shade below 6-foot-2, 198 pounds. He's built a little on the slim side, but if you watch him play he looks more like a Julio Jones type guy. Disclaimer: he's not. As an Oklahoma Sooner, he wasn't asked to be the most nuanced route runner and for that reason along with not being the biggest of receivers, I questioned how much separation he'd be able to create at the NFL level. Would every catch have to be contested?
My initial thoughts on him were lower than most. I even went as far as to say I don't think I'd take him in the first round and write an article about how he wasn't a fit for the 49ers. A lot of my thoughts on his skill set or lack thereof were echoed by NFL Films legend Greg Cosell when he put out his scouting report on Lamb. I viewed it as almost an endorsement of sorts. Like "Yeah Crock, you do know what you're talking about."
But, I'm an athlete. And athletes like to be challenged. At least I do. So, I challenged myself to dig deeper. I knew there was something to this prospect that was escaping me. Now, Lamb being the top receiver in this class isn't something new, so it's not like I discovered a prospect, but after doing my deeper dive on Lamb I came away with a different view of him.
I know where Lamb wins. He's a monster at the catch point, a big dog in that aspect. His hands are strong. Like I previously said, he plays above the rim. He doesn't mind going over the middle. He's not a blazer but is a downfield threat due to his contested catch ability. He wins from both the slot and the outside.
His run after catch in the Big12, though a conference not known for its defense, was exceptional and showed flashes of playing extremely strong running through defenders. And to top it all off, his willingness to throw his body around in the run game to block was equally as impressive. The main issues I previously had with him were he's not a burner, I didn't think he ran routes with speed, and I didn't think he'd consistently win with routes. But for whatever reason, I never asked myself, "Does he have the ability?"
Answer: He does.
I watched closer and noticed he's a twitchier athlete than I initially thought. When he had to run routes and threaten cornerbacks vertically to get corners going upfield to run comebacks, he did. He didn't face press coverage as much as others but showed the quickness and feet at the line of scrimmage to do it. In the Big12, he did what he had to do to win. I looked at how he won and can he improve on it.
My answer was an overwhelming yes.
During the 2019 draft season when DK Metcalf was coming out, a receiver I had as my wide receiver one, I made the argument for him that he didn't have to run a full route tree. The NFL is going away from having to win consistently with pure routes. You just have to be able to win however you win. Some players may need to win with routes because they lack the physical aspect to their game. I believe at the next level Lamb will be challenged to be the best version of himself and with the work he has been putting in with skills trainer Rischad "Footwork King" Whitfield,
I have very little doubt Lamb will emerge as one of, if not the top receiver, from this class and be able to not only win how he wins, but improve on all aspects of his game. If he is available to the 49ers at No. 13 overall later this month, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan should not hesitate to send Lamb a Zoom invite.
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