JAYLEN WADDLE VS CEEDEE LAMB - TALE OF THE TAPE
The fantasy football season is over, right?? WRONG! For us full degenerates, fantasy football is a 12-month long haul, and we’ve already started in with mock drafts, dynasty trades, and best ball exposure. Even this time of year, sometimes winning your league is about making the right call when you’re presented with two similarly valued players whose ADPs are right in line with each other. As the offseason goes along I’ll attempt to help you make some of these (often critical) calls, starting with a really fun one: Jaylen Waddle vs CeeDee Lamb.
THE PROS OF CHOOSING WADDLE:
The electric rookie was amazing in his first year, finishing in the top ten in targets (142), receptions (104), and YAC (443). Waddle finished as the WR16 on the season in PPR formats, and would seem to be primed to at least replicate his numbers this year under Mike McDaniel, who we all saw turn Deebo Samuel into a cheat code in 2021.
To further pad Waddle’s safety floor if you’re going to take him as a second round pick, the Fins’ rookie also played an 84.2% snap share (18th in the NFL) and ran 542 routes (10th in the NFL). As we know, volume is often key for WR production, and Waddle’s elite 73.2% catch rate shows that he’s maximizing production out of his already high amount of targets and touches.
Is it possible that coach McDaniel turns Waddle into another Deebo this year? Probably not, as Deebo is decidedly larger that Waddle, and therefore more built to handle 59 carries that was tossed his way in 2021. However, that doesn’t mean that Waddle can’t be used as a gadget player with his ability to take it to the house on any given play (see the YAC above).
THE CONS OF CHOOSING WADDLE
Waddle’s complete lack of being a downfield threat brings his upside into question, and this is where he and Deebo Samuel are starkly different. While Deebo led the NFL in both yards per reception (18.2) and yards per target (11.7), Waddle was merely a short field threat with 9.8 YPR (101st in the NFL) and 7.1 YPT (78th). To add to this, his 6.3 aDOT was also outside the top 100 for WRs.
Waddle’s 1.73 fantasy points per target are another stat that is incredibly average, and he only had ten total deep targets all season, so projecting a rise in efficiency in 2022 will ultimately come down to whether or not you buy into the fact that his new coaching scheme will create enough opportunities for his to be “Deebo 2.0”.
THE PROS OF CHOOSING LAMB
Despite what most deemed a “disappointing year”, Lamb finished the season 20th in receptions (79) and 14th in receiving yards (1102) en route to an elite 2.27 yards per route run and 120 targets. It would stand to reason that the likely departure of Amari Cooper will thrust Lamb into unquestioned WR1 territory, as Cooper leaves behind an 18.8% target share, a 27.7% air yards share, and 19 red zone targets. Unfortunately we have no data to support this, as Lamb only has one game in his career without Amari, and he had a paltry three catches for 14 yards in what was supposed to be a fantasy juggernaut game against the Chiefs.
Still, with Cooper likely gone and Michael Gallup recovering from an ACL tear, the sky should be the limit for Lamb in an offense that was seventh in passing plays per game and features an elite QB in Dak Prescott.
THE CONS OF CHOOSING LAMB
Much like Waddle, Lamb’s aDOT of 9.6 yards doesn’t seem to scream “MUST HAVE” at his current ADP, nor does his air yards share of 24.7% (it’s fine, it’s just not amazing). Something we also saw last year was that Lamb’s target share and catch % were much better out of the slot, and Amari’s departure would likely force Ceedee to the perimeter where he’s been less efficient. He’d also be dealing with #1 CBs every game.
It’s also fair to imagine that the departure of Amari Cooper would either A) hurt the Dallas offense overall from an efficiency standpoint, or B) shift the offensive scheme a little bit more run-heavy with the expectation that Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore will likely have a healthy Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to run as a “thunder and lightning” duo (I still miss Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw - don’t @ me).
While I’d be glad to have both receivers at their current ADPs (which are dancing right around one another’s), I think the combination of the new coaching scheme in Miami coupled with Waddle’s increased likelihood of being used in gadgetry-type plays has me leaning his way over Lamb’s. We still have free agency and the draft to potentially shift this the other way, but if I’m in early redraft leagues or on the clock in bestball, I’m taking Waddle > Lamb.