NFL Draft: Las Vegas Raiders' love for speed lands OU's CeeDee Lamb with Dallas Cowboys
The CeeDee Lamb/Jerry Jeudy debate – which wide receiver would be picked first in the NFL Draft – was settled by the Las Vegas Raiders. And the answer was Henry Ruggs III.
We should have known. You can take the Raiders out of Oakland. You can take Al Davis out of Planet Earth. But you can’t take Al Davis out of the Raiders.
Davis was the Raiders’ patriarch. Their head coach from 1963 to 1965, their part owner from 1966 to 1971 and their principal owner/general manager from 1972 until his death in 2011.
Davis loved speed. The Raiders’ original deep-ball threat, Warren Wells, averaged 26.8 yards per catch in 1969 and 23.1 for his career. Colorado speedster Cliff Branch became an Oakland star. The Raiders inexplicably drafted Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey with the ninth overall pick in 2009, when Heyward-Bey was showing up on no draft boards.
Heyward-Bey could run like the wind but had a nomadic career – in four Raider seasons, he had 140 catches and 11 touchdowns, and in a 10-year NFL career he had 202 catches and 16 TDs.
Will Alabama’s Ruggs be a similar pick? He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine but was not considered the all-around receiver that Jeudy or Lamb were.
Jeudy, also of Alabama, went 15th overall, to the Broncos, and Lamb went 17th overall, to the Cowboys. Lamb came out the best in the deal. The Raiders are a dysfunctional organization, the Broncos are rebuilding with an unproven quarterback in Drew Lock and the Cowboys have a potent offense, led by QB Dak Prescott.
So while getting picked later in the first round costs prospects some money, it often means a better landing spot.
The Cowboys certainly seemed thrilled to get Lamb, likely the greatest receiver in OU history. Barry Switzer told me that his Dallas sources said the Cowboys had Jeudy fifth on their board and Lamb sixth, so getting Lamb at 17th thrilled Jerry Jones’ organization.
And it all started with the Raiders taking Ruggs. It made Switzer remember a Cowboy-Raider game from his early days as the Dallas head coach. The Raiders early in the game consistently threw deep – at Deion Sanders!
“They ran three straight streak routes on Deion Sanders,” Switzer said. None were successful. Sanders intercepted the third.
“Speed, speed, speed,” Switzer said of those Raiders.
It’s a philosophy the Raiders still cherish, nine years after Davis’ death, and it’s a philosophy that helped put Lamb with the Dallas Cowboys.