When the 49ers traded DeForest Buckner almost two weeks ago, fans were initially disappointed. Still, there was a silver lining: In return for shipping the fan-favorite to Indianapolis, the Niners received the 13th overall pick in the 2020 draft, turning what was initially going to be a boring draft offseason, into Christmas in the spring!
The consensus quickly arrived at the fact that the 49ers should use that pick on a wide receiver. Specifically, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, or CeeDee Lamb. But what if all three are available? It seems unlikely, but the draft is full of surprises every year, so what if the Niners are set to pick at #13 and the trio are all still available? Who should they pick?
Well, after hours of tape and hours of deliberation, and hours of back and forth, I’ve concluded that the correct choice is Oklahoma wide receiver, CeeDee Lamb.
The biggest knock on Lamb coming out of the 2018 season was lack of strength, so Lamb resolved to fix that and hit the weight room in the offseason, and in 2019 the results showed. Here he turns a 5 yard out into a 71 yard gain by breaking four arm tackles. A total of 6 defenders had a crack at him here, that’s more than half of the defense by my count.
Here again, Lamb shakes a defender off of his back, absorbs another blow, and still has the balance to toe the sideline:
And my favorite. Lamb pulls in the swing pass, starts to go down around the 5 yard line, and basically does two one handed push ups (wait for the last replay, best angle) for an additional four yards.
Hard to argue that the number one skill a receiver must possess is good hands. Size and speed mean nothing if you can’t be counted on to haul it in, and Lamb can definitely be counted on here. CeeDee maintains focus, even in traffic, and secures the ball before turning to gain additional yards. Check out this one-handed grab against UCLA. Remind you of anyone?
Lamb has an elite ability to gain extra yards after the catch. He averaged a ridiculous 21.4 yards per reception. For comparison, Jerry Jeudy averaged 15.1, while Ruggs finished with 18.7. This reception is a perfect example of how he creates after the catch, at one point surrounded by five defenders with zero blockers to help out:
Lamb hauls this one in two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Five missed tackles and 70 yards later..
This is definitely Lambs’ weakest attribute, and he definitely isn’t in the same stratosphere as Ruggs, mostly because nobody is. But compared to Jeudy, how much slower is Lamb? Four-hundredths of a second. Not four-tenths of a second, four hundredths.
And as history has shown us, a 4.5 40 doesn’t preclude any wide receiver from being quick on the field. DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas both ran a 4.57 at the combine. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.61. And Anquan Boldin ran a 4.71.
CeeDee shows his speed in this next clip. Makes a nice move surrounded by three defenders, outruns three DB’s to the endzone.
If there’s one thing we know for sure from the history of the draft, it’s that there are no perfect prospects, and Lamb is no exception. He’s not as fast as Ruggs. His route running is solid, but still not as polished as Jeudy’s. He played in the Big 12, which is certainly not known for its defensive play; therefore, his level of competition could be questioned. He measured in just below 200 lbs at the combine; some might consider that slight for a 6’2” receiver. But really, other than lack of top-end speed, it’s tough to find many glaring weaknesses in his game.
And more importantly, the reason why I would select CeeDee Lamb ahead of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs:
I think he’s going to get better. A lot better.
Lamb is only 20 years old and has improved each year in college. Give him a year or two with a coach like Kyle Shanahan, and the sky is the limit.
The Bad News
So here’s the really bad news: I don’t think he’ll be available at 13. After watching the tape, someone is going to take him before then. The Giants, the Dolphins, the Panthers, the Jets, and the Raiders all lack a true number one. And believe it or not, there is talk that the Arizona Cardinals, despite picking up DeAndre Hopkins, might still be interested in drafting Lamb at 8 to pair back up with former college teammate Kyler Murray.
For me, it’s a simple choice. If CeeDee Lamb is available at 13, the 49ers should take him. The good news is, of course, that if he’s not, there are still two very talented wide receivers that might be, but if he is, I believe that the 49ers Kyle Shanahan can help take his game to the next level and give the team it’s first true number one wide receiver in over 20 years.