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INDIANAPOLIS — CeeDee Lamb is a man who knows the value of hard work.
Relocating to Houston after evacuating from Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, Lamb learned from a young age that everything that comes to you is earned.
That attitude has driven the former Oklahoma Sooner to being among the cream of the crop in a potentially historic class of wide receivers in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
The guy who helped put Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts into the Heisman Trophy conversation knew what the results could be from playing with quarterbacks of that caliber.
"My plan was to help them out a lot, and I feel like I did a little bit," Lamb told reporters Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Them guys, they worked their tails off, and I was just trying to match their energy. The production showed itself on the field."
The production that Lamb speaks of — the production that earned Mayfield and Murray the Heisman, and nearly a Biletnikoff Award for Lamb — was off the charts.
Lamb started 39-of-41 games, catching 173 balls for 3,292 yards (19.0 avg.) and 32 touchdowns. He also added nine carries for 20 yards (2.2 avg.) and one touchdown. He was also a dangerous punt returner, taking 54 of them for 475 yards (8.8 avg.). He was named Second-Team All-Big 12 in 2018, and First-Team All-Big 12 and a First-Team All-American in 2019.
According to Oklahoma's athletics website, Lamb burst onto the scene in 2017 with a freshman-record 807 receiving yards. For his Sooners career, he is first in school history in career yards per reception for players with at least 130 receptions. He's also first in catches of 40-plus yards (24) as well as games with 160-plus receiving yards (six). Lamb ranks second in career receiving touchdowns, third in career receiving yards and 100-yard receiving games (14), sixth in career receptions, and 15th in career all-purpose yards (3,799).
The damage he inflicted on defenses was also felt across the country, as he led all non-seniors in career receiving touchdowns and receiving yards.
Lamb's 2019 season was particularly rewarding, as he was second in the country with six games of 135-plus receiving yards. His 21.4 yards per reception ranked third nationally and first in the Big 12, also ranking tops in Oklahoma history in a single season among players with at least 50 receptions. His 14 touchdowns also led the Big 12 and were fifth nationally.
As you can see, Lamb's credentials entering the 2020 NFL Draft in April speak for themselves.
He's a slender guy, measuring in at nearly 6-2 and 198 pounds, but he arrived in Norman, Okla., about 25 pounds lighter.
"It's kind of a mindset. Going in knowing that you're a a bit underweight, it kinda makes you wanna work harder just to maintain the stability to last in the league and college," Lamb said. "I can same about the NFL. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster, so in order to survive in that league, you've gotta match that energy and intensity. The only thing there is to do is to get bigger."
There's very little, if anything, to dislike about Lamb's game.
Already over six feet tall and with a wingspan of nearly 6-5, Lamb has nice size and length with a great catch radius.
Having the measurements to have a good catch radius is one thing, but Lamb delivers because he wants the ball. He leaps up to pluck it out of the air at its highest point, coming down with most of the contested catch situations he's in. He is every bit of an alpha when it comes to the 50-50 ball.
Naturally, Lamb draws comparisons to some of the better receivers in the league — a humbling part of the draft process, he said.
"Not really, but I get a lot of comparisons, honestly, but I just want to go out there and compete," Lamb said when asked if he patterns his game after anyone in the NFL.
"DeAndre Hopkins. I've also seen Davante Adams," Lamb responded when asked which pro comparisons he's heard. "Like I said, those are great receivers; I'm honored."
While he isn't known for the elite speed of some of his counterparts in this draft class, Lamb has plenty of speed to stretch the field and leave defenders in the dust after the catch.
When asked what time he expects to run in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, Lamb made it well known that he is aware the betting odds set his time near 4.54 seconds.
"Oh yeah, I paid attention to it," Lamb said with a grin on his face. "Don't worry, I've got it."
That speed is visibly very smooth for Lamb on the field before the catch as a route runner, who also displays great quickness in the cuts he makes. His sharpness as a route runner has earned him the right to run a variety of routes from any of the receiver spots in the formation, displaying versatility at a position where it's invaluable to offenses.
Lamb understands how to adjust his body to shield defenders away when the ball is in the air, and he catches the ball very naturally and with ease. He makes catches in traffic routinely and has iron hands.
With the ball in his hands, Lamb isn't just going to go down. He makes sharp, sudden cuts, and he's got top-end agility with the ball. He is very shifty in the open field and can make just about anyone miss.
"Yards after the catch," Lamb said when asked about the best part of his game. "I enjoy making people miss and just making the most out of every opportunity I get."
There are some things that Lamb can continue working on in order to become an elite receiver at the next level.
As he mentioned, his frame doesn't necessarily look maxed out and could probably handle a little more weight. This would help with absorbing hits, but also being more effective at delivering them.
The measure of a receiver certainly doesn't come from their abilities as a blocker, but Lamb could improve in that area. More strength, and NFL coaching should address that without issue.
While he is normally very sure-handed, Lamb occasionally breaks his concentration and will drop a pass if a big play is coming out of it, focusing on what's going to come after the catch before securing it.
Lamb also commented on his game and what he'd most like to improve upon.
"Creating separation consistently," he said. "Once I get that down, I feel like I'll be the receiver that I want to be, if not more."
FIT WITH THE COLTS
The Colts' passing game needs to make improvements after finishing third from the bottom of the league in 2019. A guy like Lamb could obviously give that unit a huge shot in the arm.
Flanked by guys like T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell on either side of him, the Colts' offense could be totally transformed with one simple selection in this draft.
Beside the luxury of adding someone as talented as Lamb, the Colts actually need receiver depth as well. With pass catchers Devin Funchess, Eric Ebron, Chester Rogers and Dontrelle Inman due to hit free agency, there is room for more talent on the outside of the Colts' offense.
They also need insurance for players who have struggled to stay healthy and on the field. Between Hilton, Campbell, Funchess, Ebron and Rogers last season, they missed a combined 39 games. They were elevating guys from the practice squad and picking up street free agents late in the season.
Lamb's ability to take the top off of the defense would be a welcome addition to a Colts passing game that struggled to push the ball down the field in 2019, finishing 30th and 31st, respectively, in pass plays of 20 and 40-plus yards.
The soon-to-be rookie also fits the Colts' culture and locker room. They want team-first, hardworking players.
"It's kinda being in a dark place at a young age. Not being able to have everything that I wanted growing up, so it kinda pushes me a lot to get a lot of the things that I want now," Lamb said of his well-documented work ethic. "It all comes with work, so why not work for what I want? I'd rather work than it just be given to me."
What are the Colts or any other team getting in Lamb, and why should teams use their first-round selection on him?
"I'm willing to put my body on the line each and every day in practice," Lamb responded. "Any organization, I'm willing to give my all, no matter who it is. I'm working to be the best."