Looking for a Top-12 Wide Receiver? You Cannot Ask for Moore than D.J.

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Zach Crutcher (@ZackyNFL)
The Lateral Contributor

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Looking for a Top-12 Wide Receiver? You Cannot Ask for Moore than D.J.

D.J. Moore is the easiest fourth-round pick with league-winning upside you can draft this year. Which makes it that much more ridiculous that you can get him in the fifth.

That is right, according to 4for4 multi-site ADP D.J. Moore is going at pick 51 overall, or pick 5.03 in 12-team leagues. He is a value even according to the consensus; Moore is WR18 and 40th overall on Fantasy Pros PPR rankings. Add that he should be ranked well above where he currently is and the value skyrockets.

College star

D.J. Moore did not come out of nowhere to be a breakout wide receiver candidate. Moore was an electric college player at the University of Maryland and was selected 24th overall in the 2018 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. His production was truly incredible at the University of Maryland, with a 53.3% dominator rating (97% percentile), a 43.6% target share (99% percentile), and a breakout age of 18.4 (98% percentile) per PlayerProfiler.

Oh and his athletic profile? Equally impressive, as you can see below:

Doing Moore with less

Per Eliot Crist of FTNFantasy, only two players have had at least 1,175 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons: D.J. Moore and Travis Kelce. In fact, Moore is fifth in total receiving yards for all wide receivers over the last two seasons. Probably because he excels before the catch, while still creating significant yards after the catch and yards after contact, Moore can win effectively in all areas of the field, and produced at an elite level for multiple seasons at both the collegiate and NFL levels. This makes Moore the perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward bet for league-winning upside.

Not convinced? What if I told you that he did all this with sub-par quarterback play and all before turning 24? In his second season in 2019 at age 22, Moore finished ninth in the NFL in receiving yards despite backup quarterback Kyle Allen starting the majority of the Carolina Panthers games. Then last year at age 23, he followed up with a similarly impressive third season on a Carolina Panthers' offense being led by Teddy Bridgewater.

To put this into perspective, D.J. Moore is one of only five wide receivers in NFL history to have two or more seasons with 1,200 yards from scrimmage before turning 24 years old. The other four players to meet the criteria are Randy Moss, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins. That is elite company. Remember from earlier that Moore has the fifth-most receiving yards of all wide receivers over the past two seasons? Well, here is the list of the four wide receivers with more: DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson. If you include tight ends, only Travis Kelce makes the cut.

When you keep that elite company as a young player in your age 22 and age 23 seasons with arguably the worst quarterbacks of any of the other players mentioned, you are a special player. In 2019, the Panthers were forced to start backup quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier. In 2020, D.J. Moore had Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. This year Moore gets another new quarterback in the form of Sam Darnold. In 2019, the Panthers' quarterbacks only threw a combined 17 passing touchdowns. In 2020? 16 passing TDs. This means Panthers quarterbacks had a mere 2.7% and 2.9% touchdown rate in the past two seasons respectively. Even average-level play from Sam Darnold could be a huge leap forward. For reference, 35 quarterbacks qualified for the Pro Football Reference passing leaders stats table in 2020, and Teddy Bridgewater was 30th of 35 in touchdown rate. The median rate was Ryan Fitzpatrick with 4.9%, over 40% better than Teddy Bridgewater's 2.9% touchdown rate.

Experts have taken notice of D.J. Moore's elite performance too. Back in June, Marcus Mosher posted a tweet that put this elite level of performance into a table for everyone to see (we included it for you below). The only players who totaled more receiving yards than D.J. Moore before age 24 were Randy Moss, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins. All these metrics for excellence are available for age-adjusted production and Moore continually appears in all of them.

Now, what if he improved in 2021?

As mentioned earlier, it is tough to imagine a worse role than the deep threat role D.J. Moore held in 2020 with Teddy Bridgewater as the quarterback. In 2020 his average depth of target jumped from 11.3 yards to 13.3 yards, and his yards per reception skyrocketed from 13.1 yards to 18.4 yards. Being used almost exclusively in this role was a surprise given it did not suit Moore's skillset and was theoretically the perfect role for the Carolina Panthers' new wide receiver Robby Anderson. Yet, Moore excelled and proved he can win everywhere on the field consistently.

Need another comparison to highlight D.J. Moore's need to be considered among the elite wide receivers? Moore's yards per team pass attempt has improved each season that he has been in the NFL, climbing steadily from 1.4 yards in 2018 to 1.86 yards in 2019 and most recently 2.17 yards in 2020. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished 2020 as the WR5 in PPR formats with a yards per team pass attempt of 2.19 yards. That is how close Moore is to the unquestioned elite wide receivers. No longer relegated to the slot, Moore is an all-around wide receiver who belongs in the same conversation as the best in the game.

The only real knock on D.J. Moore in fantasy football is his lack of touchdowns. He has only scored four in each of the past two seasons. Luckily, touchdowns are not a particularly sticky stat. Davante Adams, a clearly elite wide receiver, scored on 40.6% of his red-zone targets in 2018 (see below), but then only scored on 17.4% of his targets in 2019. In 2020? 51.9%. Whether Sam Darnold is better than expected, the Panthers take a step forward in head coach Matt Rhule's second year, or luck, the path to a double-digit touchdown season is there for Moore. If he hits that threshold, a top-five wide receiver season is well within reach.

D.J. Moore is an inexpensive player at his ADP and he brings elite performance with him. He also brings breakout potential, which is truly shocking. He has been an elite producer every step of his career from the University of Maryland to the Carolina Panthers. He can win all over the field and he is effective both before and after the catch. Much like what was said of Stefon Diggs before the 2020 season. Moore could easily be this year's Stefon Diggs (a mid-round player that breaks out into the top-five). Play to win a championship, and draft D.J. Moore.

Oh, and as a treat: Every 20+ yard reception by D.J. Moore in 2020.

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