Futures: Northern Illinois WR Martel Moore
By Matt Waldman
Sleeper. It might be my favorite word. If by some infinitesimal chance — or twisted act of fate — I somehow wind up on stage at Pace University’s New York City Campus and I’m sitting across the table from James Lipton, ‘Sleeper’ would be my answer.
I love the word and all the relatives in its family. There’s its feisty little brother Underrated, its sneaky-smart cousin Undervalued, and its quiet, workaholic uncle Unsung. This clan of words describes my favorite prospects -– guys lacking marquee names, but flashing marquee games.
“Sleeper” is a relative term in sports. It’s all about expectation. A sleeper to a fan might be Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith — a prospect expected to make a roster, but not universally expected to become a star. Arian Foster might be the classical definition of sleeper –- an undrafted prospect that wound up becoming a Pro Bowler. However, a sleeper can also be a player who simply makes a roster, displaces a more-heralded veteran and contributes part-time, or a player drafted higher, starting earlier, and succeeding faster than most analysts thought.
Some of my favorite sleepers last year who matched various ways of defining the term were Russell Wilson, Bryce Brown,Marvin Jones, LaVon Brazill, and Bobby Rainey. I already have a healthy list of sleepers for 2013. One of them is Northern Illinois wide receiver Martel Moore.
Last week’s Futures subject, Marquess Wilson, could get drafted in the late rounds because, among other distinguishing characteristics, he played in a program with the conference pedigree to earn early hype. Moore isn’t likely to earn a phone call from an NFL team until the latter half of the April proceedings because he isn’t a big-time physical specimen. Despite sporting a recent track record of professionals like Michael Turner, Justin McCareins, Sam Hurd, and Garrett Wolfe, NIU isn’t a big-name program. Although the 6-foot-0, 183-pound Moore has an average-sized frame, he has the potential to develop into a big-play threat along the lines of other average-sized-but-extraordinary-skilled receivers like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt,Tim Brown, Derrick Mason, and Brandon Lloyd.
What these players have in common is a keen awareness and control of their bodies in relationship to their on-field environment. Some might define this as an aspect of “on-field awareness” or “football intelligence.” It also qualifies to some degree as uncanny athleticism.
To define this awareness further, Moore exhibits skills that are difficult to teach a receiver at a stage of development as advanced as college football. . .