Out on a Lamb

My home league fantasy team was projected to score 132 points but managed to score only 93.6 in Week 1. The shortfall was a result of three dud performances from tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Mike Williams and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Those geniuses at Yahoo projected the trio to score 47.83 fantasy points. The trio would up producing a combined 14.7 points.

Strangely, I found consolation in the fact that if they had achieved their projected totals, I would have still lost my matchup with my sister-in-law by 25 points. I was not in a panic, but I’m always looking for a deal. The only fantasy manager to score less points than me was my sister-in-law’s husband. I looked at Jack’s roster and noticed he needed a running back he could start. I was loaded with them.

One of my running backs was Antonio Gibson, who was fresh off a 20 PPR point performance on a day where he rushed 14 times for 58 yards and had seven receptions for an additional 72 yards. Of course, those points didn’t count because he was on my bench. Gibson was my RB4, behind Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and James Conner. I had also picked up another running back, Jeff Wilson, on waivers.    

I had decided to trade Gibson before I even decided who I wanted in exchange. To me, Gibson was a classic “sell high” player because I don’t think he’s going to repeat that Week 1 performance. But who could I buy low on?  Jack’s WR1 was Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. I began to salivate. Lamb is someone I loved on draft day, but I didn’t love the price. His ADP was 17.

Before you think that the public was valuing Lamb too highly, keep in mind that his ADP during draft season at the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) site was 14. That’s where the high stakes fantasy football competitions are held. These are the best fantasy football players in the world, and you can bet that they do their research on players being taken in the first two rounds.

Since Lamb has never finished in the Top 12 fantasy receivers, drafting him in the second round means buying into the likelihood of a third-year breakout. In other words, the best players believe he is going to ascend to the ranks of the elite WR1s. Of course, there was good reason for this. The three pillars to fantasy football success are talent, opportunity and situation, and Lamb checked all the boxes.

When the Cowboys drafted Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they already had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. But they knew Lamb’s talent.  But with Cooper moving on and Gallup still making his way back from an ACL tear, the opportunity was there. The experts also believed the situation in Dallas with quarterback Dak Prescott was also conducive to a breakout.

Then the situation changed in Week 1 when Prescott fractured his hand in the Cowboys’ loss to the Buccaneers. Initial reports were that the Cowboys signal caller would be out six to eight weeks. I saw the “buy low” window opening on Lamb, and I climbed through with a trade offer for Jack. I offered Gibson for Lamb. If he agreed, I would have a starting wide receiver in exchange for a bench piece.

It didn’t hurt my cause that Lamb was fresh off a 4.9 FP game. At first blush, my brother-in-law would see me offering a player who scored 20 FP for one who scored less than five. The fact that I drafted Gibson in the 9th round didn’t matter because he looked like an RB breaking out. Don’t get me wrong. Anything is possible. Remember that Gibson had an ADP of 16 just a year ago.

Was I worried about the fact that Prescott would be out and that Cooper Rush was starting for the Cowboys? I didn’t expected the Central Michigan product, who been on the Dallas bench for the past five years, to set the world on fire. But Prescott hasn’t set the world on fire either. In the season opener, Prescott was 14 for 29 (48.3) percent for 134 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Before he left the game with an injury, Prescott targeted Lamb 11 times but only connected twice for 19 yards. He could have had a good first game if he could have caught more of those targets. I made the trade offer realizing Lamb wouldn’t have the same ceiling as he would have in a better ecosystem with Prescott at the helm, but maybe Rush wasn’t the huge step down all of the analysts predicted.

My brother-in-law accepted the trade offer, and the rest is history. Lamb had 11 targets again, but this time he caught seven. He dominated Dallas’ air yards in Week 2 with a 56.7% share. The beleaguered Rush actually looked like a quarterback who can keep the ship afloat in Dallas until the captain returns. Rush has now won both of his starts with Dallas. And Lamb had 15.1 FP to Gibson’s 12.1

After the Cowboys’ victory over the Bengals, there was even some good news on Prescott. He had surgery and the break proved “cleaner” than anticipated. Follow-up reports now have Prescott’s return possible as early as Week 4. I knew this was a possibility when I made the trade because owner Jerry Jones had announced that they weren’t putting Prescott on the IR.

Out of the entire Dallas offense, Lamb was probably the fantasy asset that was under the microscope the most in Rush’s first game as the starting quarterback. With this pressure, the former Oklahoma Sooner delivered a solid fantasy performance while leading the team in targets. With a connection developing between Rush and Lamb, the wideout is a solid start in Week 3.

Lamb is now entering his third NFL season. In the modern NFL, many wide receivers break out in their third year. Lamb averaged 13.6 PPR fantasy points per game in 2020 and 14.6 in 2021. His production didn’t skyrocket, but it steadily improved. I look for a continuation of this trend if Lamb gets at least 25 percent of the target share – the amount a WR1 needs in fantasy. 

The point of this story is not to brag. I really can’t brag because I’m 0-2 in my home league after another miserable performance by my tight end Pitts and an injury to Conner. The point of my story is to educate you about what it really means to “sell high, buy low.” You have to identify a player with a proven track record to buy and trade away one that doesn’t have that track record.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

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