Fantasy Court: The Case Against CeeDee Lamb in 2022
Your honor, I am here today to present the case against Dallas Cowboys‘ star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. I know he is a talented wide receiver, but I am firmly against drafting him as the WR6 off the board at his current ADP. I believe fantasy managers who draft him there are drafting him based on what they hope he can be versus what he may actually be as a fantasy asset.
I submit to you as evidence these reasons why I am against CeeDee Lamb in 2022.
The Biggest argument for CeeDee Lamb in 2022 is the opportunity he has due to vacated targets. Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson have found new teams, and the Cowboys now have 205 vacated targets, 11th most per 4for4.com. While these vacated targets may seem enticing to those looking to draft Lamb, I am here to convince you that it may not go how you think it will.
The Additions to the Dallas Offense
The Cowboys added James Washington to a cheap deal in free agency and drafted Jalen Tolbert in the third round of the NFL Draft. These names may mean nothing to most fantasy managers, but they will likely have a decent role in the Cowboys’ offense in 2022.
James Washington showed promise during his time with the Steelers but never quite got to the point to significantly impact their offense in a crowded wide receiver room. He had 80 targets in his second year in the league and followed that up with 56 in year three and 44 last season. Nothing special, but Washington likely has more of an opportunity to see the field in Dallas and may receive a decent target share. While he may not have a significant role in Dallas, I could easily see him cracking 40-60 targets. He could have a role similar to Cedrick Wilson in 2021 when he received 61 targets.
Jalen Tolbert was a solid prospect that the Cowboys reportedly considered taking in the second round of the NFL Draft. They seem relatively high on him, and reports coming out so far have been positive as he’s worked with the first-team offense in minicamp. He may surprise and be fantasy relevant, and I could see Tolbert getting 60-80 targets. Between these two new players, they may already remove 100 targets from the 205 that were vacated, leaving 105 targets remaining.
The Players Who Are Already There
Breakout tight end Dalton Schultz failed to reach an agreement on a new deal to stay with the Cowboys long-term and is expected to play 2022 on the franchise tag. Schultz had 104 targets last year and should remain a big part of the offense. A role increase should be expected for Schultz this season, so he should see at least 115 targets.
Tony Pollard is a dynamic playmaker that the Cowboys reportedly will see more snaps at receiver. Pollard had 46 targets last season but will likely see an increase in targets in 2022. The Cowboys seem to realize they have a weapon in Pollard that needs to see the ball more. If the reports are accurate and come to fruition, Pollard hitting north of 60 targets is more than possible.
Michael Gallup played in only nine games in 2021 after a calf injury early in the year and an ACL tear in Week 17. He may miss multiple regular season games and not be a factor on the Cowboys’ offense until the second half of the season. However, Gallup had back-to-back seasons with over 100 targets before his injury-plagued 2021 season. When he is healthy, I expect him to be a significant part of the offense. The Cowboys seem to have that same thought as they signed Gallup to a five-year, $62.5 million extension this off-season.
Gallup had 62 targets in nine games last year as the team’s WR3. He should see a target increase when he steps into the lineup as the WR2 and is healthy. If Gallup is placed on the PUP and is forced to miss the first six weeks of the season, that may be the worst-case scenario. Even then, he likely plays in 11 games (Weeks 7-18) and commands a lot of targets. If Gallup plays 11 games and has the same targets per game he did last year, he would reach 75. That is a safe number to put as a minimum expectation for him, barring other health issues. Now that he is stepping into the team’s WR2 role, Gallup has the potential to break 100 targets once again.
Let’s say that Gallup has a healthy season and reaches 90 targets, and Schultz hits 115 while Pollard reaches 60. That takes away another 53 targets, which would leave 52 vacated targets left on pretty low estimates. We can likely assume some of the backup wide receivers or tight ends get a cut of those vacated targets too. In 2021, 40 targets went to backup players Blake Jarwin, Malik Turner, and Corey Clement, who are no longer on the team. There will be more backups this season who will soak up some, if not all, of those targets. Unfortunately, the players who help nobody in fantasy will still get a share. Of course, this is all hypothetical and not necessarily projecting. I say this more so we can understand how 2022 could go various ways and not just assume Lamb gets a monster target share.
In five full years with Dak Prescott at quarterback for the Cowboys, only one receiver had a season with at least 130 targets (Dez Bryant had 132 targets in 2017). Amari Cooper had 132 targets in 2020, but Dak only played five games that season. I don’t think that Dak will hyper-target Lamb in 2022, and I think 135-140 targets would be what he will get at most.
Lamb’s ADP May Be His Ceiling
According to the Ultimate Draft Kit, Lamb is currently the WR6 off the board, going at 2.07. My personal opinion would be that WR6 is his ceiling. In 2021, in an elite offense, Lamb finished as the WR18 (WR22 in PPG). The difference between the WR6 and the WR12 in 2021 was 34.2 points (2.01 PPG).
Lamb had 120 targets in 2021 and had 1.61 fantasy points per target in half-point PPR leagues (25th in the NFL among wide receivers with 50 or more targets). If you were to project 30 additional targets to Lamb for a total of 150, and we kept that same points per target, Lamb would score 241.5 fantasy points. If Lamb has a boost in efficiency and finishes 2022 with 1.75 fantasy points per target, that would be 262.5 total points. The 1.75 fantasy PPT would have been the 11th most in the league, and these examples would have led him to be the WR6 in 2021. I say this to show Lamb’s path to a top-6 finish and how challenging that may be. He will need to get a massive target increase or increase his efficiency.
Players I Would Rather Draft
When looking at the Ultimate Draft Kit and the players selected after Lamb, I see plenty of players I prefer. Some of these players also have risks, but I would prefer to take the positional advantage swing at Mark Andrews, Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, and Javonte Williams. I may even briefly consider Leonard Fournette and Zeke. Deebo Samuel, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, and Tee Higgins also go after Lamb. Samuel, Evans, and Allen have all been top-12 wide receivers, and Higgins finished higher in points per game than Lamb did in 2021. I wouldn’t take Higgins over Lamb, but I think that Higgins is the better receiver and would not be surprised if Higgins outscored Lamb in points per game again.
Maybe CeeDee Lamb Isn’t “That Guy”
Lamb was the Cowboys WR1 last year, so he has a season under his belt as the first option on a team that was sixth in passing attempts and first in scoring. Per PlayerProfiler, Lamb was 36th in Target Share (20.4%) and 38th in Target Rate (24.7%). Those numbers likely need a vast improvement to finish where he is being drafted. Another common argument is that Amari Cooper capped Lamb’s upside, which I think is an interesting argument. Six separate pairs of wide receivers who are on the same team had a higher finish than Lamb and averaged more PPG.
|Team||Team Pass Atts||WR1||PPG||WR2||PPG|
|Rams||607 (10th)||Cooper Kupp||21.6||Robert Woods||12.7|
|Bengals||555 (20th)||Ja’Marr Chase||15.5||Tee Higgins||13|
|Vikings||604 (11th)||Justin Jefferson||16.3||Adam Thielen||12.8|
|Chargers||674 (3rd)||Mike Williams||13||Keenan Allen||12.8|
|Buccaneers||731 (1st)||Mike Evans||14.1||Chris Godwin||13.8|
|Seahawks||495 (31st)||Tyler Lockett||12.8||DK Metcalf||12.2|
|Cowboys||647 (6th)||CeeDee Lamb||12.1||Amari Cooper||11.2|
Chase, Jefferson, and Kupp were all top-five fantasy wide receivers last season. They scored 15+ points per game despite having fewer team passing attempts and solid WR2 options behind them than Lamb had. Lamb may not be the type of receiver to command a large share of the offense or be an elite fantasy wide receiver.
Per the Ultimate Draft Kit, Lamb had only three WR1 weeks and had nine games outside the top-30 wide receivers in 2021. He was a top-24 wide receiver only 37.5% of the time (26th), lower than Darnell Mooney. That is not someone that excites me as the WR6 off of the board.
Lamb was not much of a factor in the RedZone last year. Dak had the seventh most attempts within the 20-yard line and 11th in attempts within the ten yard-line. Despite that volume, Lamb was 38th in RedZone targets. Cooper, Zeke, and Schultz all had more targets than Lamb did. Lamb may pick up some extra opportunity in the RedZone with Cooper gone, but it’s also possible Lamb doesn’t make this jump in 2022. Being the fourth option on your team in RedZone targets is not something you would expect from an elite receiver. It doesn’t give me hope that he will dominate RedZone targets this season.
Your honor, I hope you understand that I really do believe that CeeDee Lamb is a very talented player and will be a solid fantasy option.His target share could go up but projecting him to go over 135-140 targets and be good enough to finish as the WR6 on that volume is a tall task. I could see his first quarter of the season going well for him. Still, once the new weapons in Dallas get familiar and Gallup gets back to full strength, Lamb could struggle to live up to where he will be drafted. Lamb hasn’t shown us he can be an elite wide receiver, and because of that, I am out on Lamb in 2022.