In Hollywood Brown and CeeDee Lamb, OU Wideouts Are Making Even Bigger NFL Splash
John. E. Hoover
Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook had already given Oklahoma an impressive base of wide receiver talent in the NFL.
But in the past 12 months, that base seems to have gotten much stronger.
Marquise Brown had a fabulous rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, and much is already expected of CeeDee Lamb in his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
Brown began his rookie campaign coming off a Lisfranc injury in college that affected his elite speed and his precision route-running. He started fast with four catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ opener, then caught eight passes for 86 yards in Week 2.
Brown suffered a setback that cost him most of October, but as he got healthier, he regained his explosiveness and finished 2019 with 46 receptions for 584 yards and seven touchdown catches.
Now, with a productive offseason behind him — in which he’s added 23 pounds of muscle and has been focused on football, rather than the health of his foot — Brown could be poised for a breakout season as he and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson hope to welcome cousin Antonio Brown into one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses.
SI fantasy football analyst Corey Parson picked Brown as his breakout player for 2020.
“I just wanted to get back to my old self,” Brown told media this week. “Started off in the beginning of the year just working on my foot, getting my leg back right, my whole left side of my body. And then, ramping up into May and June, I started moving around, doing routes, cutting.
“Then June and July, I started back working on my speed. I just took the time out to address every part of my body, just to make sure I was going into the year right.”
He’s now up to 180 pounds — he finished last year at 157 — which is closer to the weight he played at during his final year at Oklahoma.
“What people fail to realize, when I was at OU, I was 173-170,” Brown said. “So, I honestly just gained about 10 pounds. I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”
After the Ravens took him in the first round with the 25th overall pick, Brown signed a four-year, $11.8 million rookie contract that included a $6.6 million signing bonus. He acknowledged the challenges of being a rookie in the NFL while also having to fight through a debilitating injury.
“It wasn’t the best circumstances, but I was just blessed to be in the NFL,” Brown said. “I was just thankful that God allowed me to be where I was at. So, it’s no complaints. I had a good year, to me, dealing with what I had to do. Just continue to push forward.”
Lamb hasn’t played a down yet for the Cowboys, but he’s already made an impression on his teammates.
“I think he’s a quick learner,” veteran Amari Cooper said this week. “He already has a good foundation. He’s fundamentally sound in his route-running. It’s very small, nitpicky things that I help him with that I may see with him being a rookie, but I think he has a really good foundation.”
Lamb signed a four-year, $14 million rookie contract with the Cowboys, including a $7.75 million signing bonus.
Cooper — who signed a five-year, $100 million deal this offseason in his second NFL contract — seemed happy that the Dallas offense got more explosive when the Cowboys drafted him 17th overall.
“I think it was a great pickup,” Cooper said. “You have to draft the best player on the board. Everybody understands that. He’s a great receiver. I think with me and Michael Gallup going for 1,000 yards last year, the expectation is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year.”
That may seem ambitious, but it’s happened five times in NFL history. Dallas led the league last year in total offense and ranked second in passing offense.
Westbrook is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract (four years, $3.1 million) with Jacksonville and is still waiting for his big breakout, although he’s been very good the last two years with 66 catches in both 2018 and 2019, with 717 yards and 660 yards, respectively, and eight total touchdowns.
Shepard, who signed a four-year, $41 million extension going into the 2019 season, has produced four solid seasons with the Giants before suffering two concussions last year that knocked him out of six games total. His yearly catch totals (65, 59, 66, 57) have produced good yards (683, 731, 872, 576) and he’s gotten to the end zone 17 times.
To get the latest OU posts as they happen, join the SI Sooners Community by clicking “Follow” at the top right corner of the page (mobile users can click the notifications bell icon), and follow SI Sooners on Twitter @All_Sooners.