Cowboys select Sooners' WR CeeDee Lamb in first round

Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) runs upfield with a reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas.

NORMAN, Okla. — CeeDee Lamb tweeted a photo of a large pizza before Thursday’s festivities, thanking Pizza Hut for a special delivery.

Jerry Jones hopes Lamb can deliver for years to come.

Lamb slipped to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 17 overall in Thursday’s NFL Draft. He wasn’t the top receiver taken overall — that honor went to Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III — or even the second. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy was the No. 2 receiver off the board.

But Lamb still found a professional home needing an outside weapon, and one right down the road from where he played in college.

Jones and the Cowboys were in the market for several positions, including a No. 3 receiver. Randall Cobb, who caught 55 passes for Dallas last season, went to the Houston Texans in free agency.

Lamb presents a good option and won’t need to make a big splash as a rookie with 1,000-yard receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the Cowboys’ roster.

The development appeared to delight Jones. ESPN’s virtual draft coverage showed he and Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy smiling ear to ear when it appeared Lamb had fallen to their club.

NFC East rival Philadelphia had a shared interest in Lamb

The physical, after-the-catch playmaker left OU ranking first with 24 career catches of at least 40 yards and six career games with at least 160 yards receiving.

Though he never won the Biletnikoff Award in college, he had been a popular choice among pundits as the draft’s top receiver in a deep group that includes Jeudy, Ruggs, Clemson’s Tee Higgins, LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr.

It was a bit of a surprise that Lamb slipped so deep into the night.

Scouts liked his route-running, but some draft analysts thought it lacked compared to Jeudy.

OU coach Lincoln Riley discussed that Wednesday.

“Not only is it not a concern, but the people I've spoke to in the NFL, the questions I get, that's just considered a strength of his, as it should be,” Riley said.

Like the Sooners’ other first-round prospect, Kenneth Murray, Lamb started immediately in college.

Riley remembered wanting to get Lamb enrolled early as possible during the recruiting process.

"We thought he was going to have a chance to make an impact pretty quickly. We sent coach [Dennis] Simmons out to watch him the spring before and thought he was probably good enough to play for us then his last spring of high school,” Riley said. “And then he came in and learned the system quickly, he's a smart kid.”

Lamb’s physical gains turned him into a tough blocker, strong route runner and tackle-breaker in the secondary. He isn’t as fast as others in his draft class, but his strength was never questioned.

“Well-documented how that has progressed and made a difference in his game,” Riley said, “but he had a confidence and a pose and a belief in himself, and enough ability in the beginning that it was pretty clear early on in that training camp that it was just going to be a matter of time before he took that position over, and it didn't take long for that to happen.”

Lamb is the second-highest OU receiver selected, behind Billy Brooks at No. 11 in 1976.

He’s just the third receiver taken by the Cowboys in the first round since 1988.

"Really excited for him here at the next level with the Cowboys,” Riley stated in a release. "I think he's got a great chance to have a long and very prosperous career."

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Palmateer is sports editor for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI LLC publication.

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