Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb made the Pro Bowl in 2021, only his second season in the NFL, but he hasn’t quite drawn the same national media attention as many of his peers at the same position. Despite catching 79 passes for 1,102 yards as a 22-year-old wideout last year, Lamb still needs to take that next step before becoming the dominant number one that many expected him to become after being a first round pick two years ago out of Oklahoma.
While Lamb could easily get more attention by being more vocal, he could do just as much—if not more—by being more of a threat on important downs and in key situations to help Dallas win. After all, that’s how Cooper Kupp became an NFL icon with the Los Angeles Rams last season despite not being a very outspoken player and even Lamb has to acknowledge that Kupp sets a high bar at the position.
Lamb appeared on Mike Silver’s podcast “The Volume” on Tuesday and he was asked which players he models his game after. Kupp was one of the first players he name dropped even though Kupp himself didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until last season.
“I like Cooper Kupp. A lot.”
Lamb also gave a special shout out to Odell Beckham Jr., a mentor of his in his young career.
Even though I think Kupp has always been a great receiver and that he didn’t get to shine until last season because of the change-over from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford, I’m not sure how many other receivers were modeling their game after his. An amazing route runner, an elite blocker at the position, an amazing get off, Kupp has been one of the game’s most impressive players over the last five seasons.
But he shined in 2021 by leading the NFL in catches, yards, and touchdowns, as well as finishing first in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement at FootballOutsiders and third in Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).
Lamb had a good amount of yards and catches but he only finished 30th in DVOA. Why is that?
Broadly speaking, the implication is a combination of two factors: The Cowboys didn’t go to Lamb in many high-pressure, key situations last season AND he didn’t have a high number of big moments in those key situations. DVOA is measuring the value of a player in key situations like on third down, late in the game, when trailing or tied, and in the red zone.
Let’s compare Kupp to Lamb in some of those situations.
Cooper Kupp: 26 catches on 37 targets for 205 yards and 13 touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb: four catches on 10 targets for 36 yards and three touchdowns
Cooper Kupp: 43 catches on 50 targets for 594 yards and four touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb: 18 catches on 30 targets for 260 yards and zero touchdowns
Cooper Kupp: 57 catches on 77 targets for 792 yards and five touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb: 22 catches on 39 targets for 314 yards and two touchdowns
Of course, the volume stats were not all that close either. Kupp had 145 catches for 1,947 yards with 16 touchdowns. Lamb had 79 receptions, 1,102 yards, and only six touchdowns. Lamb is also only 23 and may be further ahead in his career going into year three than where Kupp was at going into 2019.
But it is still interesting to consider just how different Cooper Kupp was last season as compared to a very good receiver like CeeDee Lamb. Who wouldn’t be looking up to him now? The entire NFL is looking up at Kupp’s stats.