There were more than a few players I selected for my team to defend the planet who were more difficult decisions than I anticipated. Adding Randy Moss to my team was easy.
You will get no hand wringing from me about Randy Moss. He smoked blunts before high school games. He beat the mess out of a high school classmate and needed the community to plea for shorter jail time. And he made an alternative version to “Pull Up To My Bumper” with a security guard.
I’m just getting started.
He offended Joe Buck by pretending to moon the Green Bay fans after a touchdown (he won points from me there). He earned the ire of Merrill Hoge for his effort away from the ball. And he had three teams run him out of town during the prime of his career–one of those involved berating a caterer.
He’s also the best deep receiver ever, one of the most dangerous players in the history of the game, and the most intelligent receiver Bill Belichick ever coached.
And he pissed off Joe Buck.
He wasn’t the model teammate, a model citizen, or a mature guy. Some of the reasons behind Moss’ behavior are understandable even if they aren’t acceptable. I’m not going to defend them, but I’m not going to hold it against him, either.
As much as his life in the eye of the media off the field seemed like turmoil, everything Moss did on the field embodied grace. There is no player in the game who tracks the deep ball better or disguised his tracking with a defender glued to him.
Most people think of height, blazing speed, and the skill to jump out of the gym when they regard Moss the player. Few realize that his game is above the rest for its extreme subtlety. Moss’ attack was always at the latest possible point of the ball’s arrival and whether it was choosing to leap with full extension, keeping his feet on the ground and arms retracted, turning a shoulder, or stopping and making a complete turn on a dime, he had the greatest instincts I’ve ever seen for making the tiniest adjustment that earned him the ball.
Stronger than his rail-thin frame appeared, you couldn’t push Moss around. He might not be as physical as Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, or Michael Irvin, but Moss had more amazing plays downfield in double and tripe coverage than any receiver I’ve ever seen. Pair Moss with Brett Favre and there will be a lot of touchdowns where Moss simply out runs whatever coverage was intended for him.
Check out the 12-minute mark of this video and listen to what Cris Carter, Warren Sapp, and Belichick have to say–particularly Moss’ intelligence for the game and how he communicates it.
What clinched it for me with Moss is when I considered whom to substitute for similar play in the areas I need Moss the most. Calvin Johnson comes closest, but Moss is better at tracking the ball and disguising his intentions. Megatron is like a state-of-the-art copier printing a masterpiece at lightning speed. Moss created the masterpiece from a blank canvas.
I could put Sterling Sharpe or Tim Brown in his prime in Jerry Rice’s spot and not be too disappointed. You might feel the opposite, but this was my thought process.
The only thing Moss doesn’t do well is block, and as long as Moss sells his vertical routes, he won’t need to block–his threat will eliminate at least one defensive back on every play. It can be every bit as good as a block.
Even if it doesn’t work this way, I’ll make the exception. If you’re careful about how you build your team you can have very specific exceptions to the rule and thrive. Moss is my team’s exceptional player.
He’ll stretch the field and make defenses pay. He’ll be open even when he’s bracketed. And, with players I have blocking for him in space, Moss can take it to the house on a screen. He might even throw a pass or two.
Moss and Favre always wanted to play together. This time they’ll do it at the top of their game and if the aliens lean hard on stopping Moss, Steve Smith can make the aliens pay from anywhere on the field while Rice relentlessly moves the chains and wins in the red zone.
When you see my final receiver for empty sets and substitutions, it’s going to tie the whole room together. I call him the smiling hand grenade.
Stay tuned (and take cover).
Matt Waldman runs this joint called the Rookie Scouting Portfolio blog. He also writes one of the most insanely comprehensive analysis of skill position prospects available to the public called the RSP. Draftniks and fantasy owners swear by it. Download the RSP and RSP Post-Draft for one insane price here and 10 percent of each sale is donated to Darkness to Light, which trains individuals, communities, educators, coaches, government and civic organizations to prevent and address sexual abuse in their communities. Learn more about the RSP publications.