This past season, the 6-10 Dallas Cowboys had very few bright spots. After all, the team suffered several key injuries, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. The most impactful loss being their quarterback, Dak Prescott, who was lost for the season after suffered a devastating ankle injury in Week Five.
But one of the few positives to come out of last season was the play of rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. The 21-year old recorded 74 receptions for 935 yards and a total of seven touchdowns. Five of those scores coming through the air, one on the ground, and one via special teams.
But the fact is Lamb landing in Dallas seemed improbable before the start of the 2020 NFL Draft. Arguably the top wide receiver prospect in the draft class, the Oklahoma wideout wasn’t supposed to be available when the Cowboys’ number was called in the first round last year, 17th overall.
Lamb, who was coming off a 62 reception, 1,327-yard, 14 touchdown performance as a junior for the Sooners in 2019, was expected to be one of the top players chosen in the first round. And even if he somehow fell to Dallas, the Cowboys had several more pressing needs other than wideout.
The Cowboys had just signed wide receiver Amari Cooper, whom they traded a first-rounder for two years prior, to a massive five-year, $100 million contract extension. And second-year wideout Michael Gallup was coming off his first 1,000-yard season.
Dallas also had up-and-coming receiving prospects like Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Noah Brown. So there was really no reason to spend a first-round selection on a wide receiver. But when Lamb unexpectedly fell to Dallas, there was a tough decision to be made.
Either the team would draft Lamb because of his overwhelming talent and ignore team need, or add a player to the roster at a position that was in more desperate need of an upgrade. To the dismay of other teams, the Cowboys elected to do the former and bring the Sooner star to Dallas.
Perhaps the biggest negative impact of this decision came against a divisional rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Birds owned the 21st overall selection in last year’s draft, four slots after the Cowboy. They were in desperate need of receiver help and it appeared that Lamb might slide to them if he wasn’t drafted by Dallas.
While Cowboy fans rejoiced following the selection of Lamb, which represented a shift in draft philosophy valuing talent over team need or scheme fit, Philly fans were heartbroken. While the Eagles would make TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor their first-round pick (missing out on rookie Pro Bowler Justin Jefferson out of LSU drafted right afterward by the Minnesota Vikings) Philadelphia botched an opportunity to trade up in front of the Cowboys to nab Lamb instead.
Reagor would struggle with injuries his first season in Philly playing in 11 games and recording 31 receptions for 396 yards and one touchdown as a rookie. Finishing the season with a 4-11-1 record, Philadelphia would unexpectedly part ways with head coach Doug Pederson this offseason. And they recently traded away quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts.
But one has to wonder what would have happened if the Eagles had landed Lamb in last year’s draft. Would he have become the favorite weapon of Wentz? Would CeeDee’s presence have been able to impact the outcome of some of those contests? After all, eight of their games were determined by six points or less last year. Would both Pederson and Wentz remained in Philly had the outcome of their season been slightly different?
Of course, we’ll never know the answer to those questions. But it’s interesting to think that the selection of CeeDee Lamb by the Dallas Cowboys could have had a ripple effect that somehow helped to place the Philadelphia Eagles in the position they find themselves today.