It’s a bittersweet feeling for Lincoln Riley.
On one hand, the revered Oklahoma head coach (and ex-candidate for the Dallas Cowboys‘ vacancy) understandably is not happy when his powerhouse Sooners program, which more resembles a football factory, loses an elite talent to the NFL ranks, as is the case on an annual basis.
On the other, he can’t help but marvel at what CeeDee Lamb did in Norman across three short seasons, and what the new Cowboys wide receiver will do in a big-league stadium near you for the next decade.
“CeeDee was dominant all year,” Riley said last month on The Herd, via 247Sports. “I don’t think there was a corner all year that did much against him. If there were any limitations, it was where the ball fell that night. The guy is an explosive playmaker, he can be a dynamic route runner — how good he is after the catch. He had some success early in his career but he continued to let us coach him very hard. He’s a dynamic player. He’s one of those guys where any scheme you draw up, you don’t have to take him off the field. That versatility, that explosion, you just don’t find that combination very often.”
Lamb was the best player available on Dallas’ big board, drafted No. 17 overall back in April, and arguably the top receiver in a historically deep class. He totaled 173 catches for 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns in 40 collegiate games. He broke out as a true junior last season, finishing with 1,327 yards and 14 scores on 62 grabs, earning Consensus All-American honors.
A threat to score whenever he touches the ball, Lamb has drawn comparisons ranging from Chad Johnson to DeAndre Hopkins to Jerry Rice. He wins with gliding 4.5 speed and blur-like separation ability, though Lamb’s route-running left a little to be desired — one of just a few weaknesses he’s attempting to strengthen.
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A Destined Fit
Lamb joins an already potent offense that features Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott, and Blake Jarwin, with quarterback Dak Prescott as the distributor. This means the 21-year-old can develop in a mostly pressure-free environment, sans overwhelmingly immediate expectations that befall first-round investments.
He also joins a franchise that’s a mere three-hour drive from Oklahoma’s campus. Which was a selfishly fortuitous break for Riley, who will keep an eye fixated on his former star pupil, perhaps in person.
“It’s always unpredictable with twists and turns,” he told the Cowboys’ official website. “But I’m thankful that CeeDee got to go to a great organization. He’ll play with a really good quarterback and really good offensive staff. He’ll have some other weapons around him. So, selfishly we’re happy he’s only going to be a few hours away from us.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL