With both receivers coming out of blue-blood college programs at Louisiana State University and the University of Oklahoma, receivers Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb have a ton to prove in their rookie seasons.
Receivers that are drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft have produced mixed results, as the likes of Corey Davis, Laquon Treadwell, and John Ross have all been major disappointments for their respective teams, while the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, and Julio Jones have all flourished in their NFL careers after having been drafted in the first round.
For both Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb, they were members of a highly-regarded wide receivers class that also included the likes of Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, Laviska Shennault, and a plethora of other solid receiving threats to add to NFL offenses as soon as the 2020 season, whenever that may begin. Lamb was a part of the top tier of receivers in the draft, along with Ruggs III and Jeudy, while Jefferson vaulted up some draft boards as the draft got closer and became a 1B guy for teams that were looking for WR talent but did not want to move up to get some.
For both players, they fell into solid circumstances – Jefferson went to the Minnesota Vikings at pick 22, while Lamb went five spots before Jefferson to the Dallas Cowboys at pick 17. While the early-to-mid 20s became a solid projection for Jefferson, Lamb was not expected to have dropped past picks 10-14, so for Dallas to scoop him up when they did without moving up to get him has been looked at as one of the steals of the draft early on.
In order to compare both of these players, the fit, as well as the offensive schematics, must be considered to ensure an even playing field – let’s jump in.
As the main target for first overall pick Joe Burrow, Jefferson led the LSU Tigers in receptions (111) that amounted to 1,540 yards and finished second to teammate Ja’Marr Chase in receiving touchdowns.
Coming into the league at 6’1” and 202 lbs. with a 33” wingspan, Jefferson is a great vertical threat for the Vikings offense that will look to him to replace the production that went with Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash which is not blazing but is quite fast, and Jefferson’s role will be to help take some pressure off of incumbent no.1 option Adam Thielen and give Kirk Cousins a solid pass-catching option.
While the Cowboys were in no pressing need to draft a WR this high, Lamb will be afforded the luxury of being brought up at a slower pace than most first-round WRs. Playing behind both Amari and Michael Gallup, Lamb’s snaps in the slot will help him become Dak Prescott’s friend, potentially filling the role that has been vacated by Cole Beasley’s departure to Buffalo a few seasons ago.
Lamb’s time in the UO offense will help him in his transition to the NFL, especially with how pro-ready Lincoln Riley runs the team and its offensive scheme. Lamb’s role in the NFL will be less defined early on, yet he may have the likelier potential to have a better overall career than Jefferson.
While Jefferson fits into an offense that is more target-friendly for him out of the gate, the inconsistent QB play that Cousins provides puts a damper on his breakout abilities, as well as how established their run game is with Dalvin Cook behind a much-maligned offensive line.
Lamb, on the other hand, fits into the three-receiver sets perfectly for Dallas, complementing the stability of Cooper and Gallup, all while giving him a chance to feast off of play-action calls when the offense decides not to feed Ezekiel Elliott.
Lamb’s career potential looks to be a bit better than Jefferson’s, even if it will take a few years for him to fully show it.