What sets Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb and Vikings' Justin Jefferson apart? NFL evaluators tell us

Six receivers were chosen in the first round 2020 draft. After a year and a half of results it seems clear that CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys) and Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings) have distinguished themselves from the rest.
The 22nd overall pick has 129 catches and 1,942 yards with 10 touchdowns. Lamb, the 17th, has 107 catches and 1,432 yards with nine touchdowns.

They are also performing well against the best franchises in history.

In Cowboys Hall of Fame history, only Bob Hayes (a Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver) reached 1,000 receiving yards in less games than Lamb (17). Lamb, 22, reached 100 receptions in 22 consecutive games, tied Herschel Walker's record for most games in which he has been able to do so in team history.

Also 22, Jefferson broke the Vikings rookie records in receiving (88) as well as yards (1,400), set by Hall of Famer Randy Moss. Jefferson has more yards and catch than Moss through their 22 first games, although Moss only had 21 touchdown receptions. The streak that Jefferson holds of at least five catches in nine consecutive games is the longest streak in NFL history.

Jefferson has a pace of 109 catches this season and 1,445 yards. Lamb is on pace for only 88 catches, and 1,325 yard.

The Las Vegas Raiders fan base (Henry Ruggs III), No. 12 overall), Denver Broncos (Jerry Jeudy, No. 15 overall), and Philadelphia Eagles (Jalen Ragor, Number. 21 overall), have to wonder why Lamb and Jefferson were not selected by their respective teams. Because Brandon Aiyuk was selected by the San Francisco 49ers after Lamb and Jefferson had been gone, they are now safe from scrutiny.

"There was never any doubt that CeeDee was No. 1," an assistant general manager said. He's definitely a 1. Perhaps Jefferson fell because people didn’t consider him a 1.

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC: Lamb and Jefferson (or Jefferson and Lamb) will meet at U.S. Bank Stadium for the second time in 2 seasons. Both teams are coming off their byes and looking to continue their winning streaks.

Justin Jefferson and CeeDee lamb ESPN

Last November Lamb made an incredible touchdown catch, turning and twisting for Andy Dalton's pass. But Jefferson had the highlight of his season with a 39-yard touchdown touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins. Jefferson finished with 86 yards with three receptions.

Jefferson has 41 receptions this season for 542 yards. This ranks him within the top 10. Lamb has 33 receptions for 497 yards. However, he is coming off a 149 yard effort against the New England Patriots. He also scored two touchdowns from 35 yards in overtime.

Courtney Cronin, NFL Nation reporter, and Todd Archer, NFL personnel executives, spoke to Lamb and Jefferson about their unique traits.

Follow the catch

The numbers are clear: Lamb has nine catches with 20 or more yards this season, and Jefferson has eight. ESPN Stats & Info reports that Lamb has 210 yards from the catch, ranking 17th in the NFL. He also averages 6.36 YAC which ranks seventh among wide receivers who have at least 20 catches. Jefferson is at No. 21 with 196 yards averages 4.78 YAC (21st). Jefferson is No. 1 if you include the 2021 and 2020 seasons. With 641, Jefferson ranks 5th among wide receivers in YAC.

Lamb is ranked No. This season, Lamb ranks No. 5 with 71 yards from the first contact. Jefferson is seventh with 66.

Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is No. With 70 yards from the first contact, this is 5 for this season. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

Scouting report for Lamb

He is unique because he can be both elusive after the catch and strong. He has a unique way to escape from defenders with a separation burst. He has that stop-start body control. -- NFC player personnel director

"It's almost like, 'Is that really so fast?' Then he would bring one to the house. CeeDee's speed and playmaking abilities are hard to judge. He didn't look fast, but he ran past someone when I saw him. Only a few receivers have I ever seen it live. It was DJ Moore and Laviska Shenault who I saw it. CeeDee, D.J. The 40 times were not that slow. It just seemed like they weren’t moving as fast.

"It's weird because some guys can look smooth and not really trying, and then you see someone trying to chase them. They don't get them." NFC Area Scout

Although CeeDee is a great route runner, he's better at holding the ball than Jefferson. He was an excellent runner once he had the ball in his hands, especially in college. He was capable of taking it all the way, even if it was a hitch, or a slant. He does better with 45-degree angles cuts like speed outs, posts and routes that don’t require him to stop. -- NFL assistant general manager

Scouting report for Jefferson

He'll catch it, and he's eager to make a play. His catch was a great run after catch. He had one of the best wiggles in the draft. That means he can make the first guy miss and could take it to any house at any time. His playmaking abilities were evident, and it was obvious on tape. NFC Area Scout

"He is not as creative after the catch. He is good, but he does more when he has determination than elusiveness. -- NFC player personnel director


The numbers are not the truth: Drops can be subjective. One assistant coach may call a drop while another might not. ESPN Stats & Information shows Lamb with six drops in 2020, two this season so far, and Jefferson with three drops as a rookie. Jefferson also had three drops this season. In the last two seasons, Jefferson had two fumbles while Lamb has one.

However, neither receiver is considered to be in "bad hands."

Scouting report for Jefferson

"Really consistent catcher. He's a steady-hand guy. Although he can still make eye-opening catches, he will be more consistent and not only make more acrobatic catches. He will probably make more of the harder catches. -- NFC player personnel director

"He is a ball-catcher and not a body-catcher." It's not difficult to distinguish between the two. -- NFL assistant general manager

Scouting report for Lamb

His hands are excellent, but you might not expect a drop with his level of hand. He is a man who tracks the ball more over his shoulder than when he's returning to the ball. Because of his body control, he'll catch more "wow" catches. CeeDee excels in traffic. -- NFC player personnel director

"Comparing them, I would say CeeDee has stronger hands. But it's not because Justin doesn't have good hands. Justin was the most skilled of the three, and probably had the best hands (at LSU). Jefferson's hands were probably my favorite, more than Ja'Marr [Chase] and Terence [Marshall] coming out. I thought Justin's hands were just as good as CeeDees in that draft. CeeDee made catches like "Wow, how does he do that?" -- NFC Area Scout

Running Route

The numbers are clear: It's difficult to make separation in a league full of great athletes. But Lamb and Jefferson do it. ESPN Stats & Info shows that Lamb is 2.86 yards away from the best defender at the pass arrival time, while Jefferson averages 2.79 yards.

Next Gen Stats reports that Lamb reached a maximum speed of 20.72 mph in Week 5 against New York Giants, while Jefferson achieved a speed of 20.15mph in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns.

Scouting report for Lamb

"His speed and agility at the line of Scrimmage, his ability to set up guys at the top of his routes is what sets him apart from the rest, and then his run after catching the catch, that's it." -- NFC player personnel director

He is so smooth on the field and has great field stretching ability. He doesn't seem to be trying but he opens up. He's one of those guys who doesn't break a sweat while trying to run a route. He's not trying to be anything, but it's hard for people to get mad at him. "Some guys are like that." NFC Area Scout

Justin Jefferson, the Vikings' wide receiver, has nine consecutive games with at least five catch in a row. This streak is second longest in the NFL. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Scouting report for Jefferson

He was extremely smooth. It was obvious that he was an elite athlete by the way he came in and out of breaks. He was also able to lose weight easily. He could do everything that his predecessors and those that will be coming out this year were able to do. He beat the people he was being compared to. It doesn't matter if it is the No. He'll still win, even if it's the No. He'll still win, even if he plays below his opponent's level. Sometimes people fall down. If I can see that I have backups, I don’t have to work as hard. Justin was not there. -- NFC Area Scout

He's an explosive, savvy route runner. He can step on others' toes, and then he is fearless when attempting to catch the football. -- NFC player personnel director

"He is exceptional in transitional stop route plays. It's more like 60 mph to 0. He stops faster than anyone in the league. He's 60 now and can stop it and get back to the ball. He is an exceptional player." -- NFL assistant general manager

What Jefferson and Lamb have to say about each others

The receivers share a mutual admiration and want to be the best in 2020's draft class.

Lamb stated, "I'm certain [Jefferson] wants the best for sure" "I want to be the best in my class. That's what keeps us going. You can see the love for the game throughout the week, as well as how hard we try to make a name for ourself.

Lamb stated that he and Jefferson will chat on Instagram every now and again. Lamb described Jefferson as a "great player."

Lamb stated, "I watch him almost as much as any other receiver." I like his game. His movements and routes are great. He is a phenomenal receiver."

Jarvis Landry and Mike Evans were the last draft class to have as many stars at wide receiver as the 2020 group. They had 13 receivers go in their first two rounds. The other candidates included Odell Beckham Jr., Odavante Adams, Davante Adam, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Odell Beckham Jr. Their group, which hopes to be one of the most successful receiver classes in history, continues to be led by Jefferson and Lamb.

Jefferson stated, "We're doing some incredible things." Jefferson said, "We are both great playmakers and doing big things for each other's teams. We have to keep going, I'm eager to see him grow and accomplish great things. He's going up against a formidable opponent.