49ers NFL Draft Profile: WR CeeDee Lamb
A couple of weeks ago, there was absolutely no chance the San Francisco 49ers were going to get wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the draft. He is arguably the best player at his position and is destined to be a top 10 or 15 pick, so the 49ers will not be able to get their hands on him with the 31st selection. However, a couple of transactions during Free Agency have altered the situation.
San Francisco sent defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the 13th overall pick, putting the Red and Gold within range to select Lamb. Also, the Arizona Cardinals swindled the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins, which decreases the Birds’ - who hold the eighth selection - need for a wideout. With these moves, the odds the Oklahoma product falls into general manager John Lynch’s lap increases dramatically.
Given that he could suit up for the 49ers next season, let’s take a look at what Lamb brings to the table:
Yards After the Catch: While Lamb doesn’t possess the explosiveness like Henry Ruggs or Jalen Reagor do, the former Sooner is very effective after the catch in his own right. He has excellent elusiveness and vision to turn short routes into long gains and is almost like a running back with the ball in his hands. The Oklahoma product also is strong enough to lower his shoulder and run over defensive backs. This is undoubtedly Lamb’s best trait and played a big factor in his 21.4 yards per catch, which lead the Big 12.
Body Control: Whether it’s keeping his feet in-bounds on a catch, adjusting to a ball in the air, or tight-roping the sideline after the catch, Lamb displays outstanding body control. All of this will make coaches and quarterbacks very happy at the next level, as each trait keeps the chains moving and helps to move the ball down the field. What might be the most impressive is his ability to contort his body on long passes, which helps make him a vertical threat despite his lack of top-end speed. He may not blow by defenders, but he can put himself in a good position to catch the deep ball.
Route Stemming: The best way the Oklahoma product creates separation is through his route stemming. Lamb varies his releases off the line of scrimmage, attacks defensive back’s leverage, and varies his speed when running routes. This puts corners and safeties on their heels and makes it difficult for them to anticipate what the route is.
Sharp Cuts: In college, Lamb primarily ran drag routes when crossing the middle of the field and wasn’t asked to make a lot of sharp 90 degree cuts. Part of the reason for this is those types of plays are a staple of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley’s offense, but the few times the wideout was asked to make sharp cuts weren’t pretty. He struggles to explode out of his breaks and likes to make rounded turns. NFL defensive backs will be able to stay in-phase with him on in and out routes, but this is also something that can improve down the line with more repetitions.
High Pointing the Ball: While the pass-catcher adjusts to deep passes really well, he also likes to let the ball come to him instead of going up and catching it at the highest point. Corners and Safeties at the next level will be able to beat him vertically and get interceptions and pass breakups. What makes this a frustrating element of Lamb’s game is he showed the ability to do it at the combine, as seen below. Clearly, it’s not a matter of him lacking the athletic ability, but he needs to show this on the field.
Zone Awareness: Far too often last season he and quarterback Jalen Hurts weren’t on the same page as balls were thrown behind the wide receiver. Part of this can be chalked up to Lamb playing with his third QB in as many seasons, but it’s also a result of him not settling down in holes against zone coverage. Hurts would expect the wideout to sit when Lamb didn’t, which lead to some errant and dangerous throws. Granted, this is a trait that a lot of college wide receivers struggle with and can improve upon at the next level.
Lamb would be an excellent fit for the San Francisco 49ers. The one thing he shares in common with most of the wide receivers on the roster is the playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. That means motioning him in some jet-sweep scenarios is on the table. Even if no one sees that in him, Shanahan has a way of getting players to fit perfectly into the mold of the offense.