Matt Waldman’s RSP shares its pre-draft scouting report of Carolina wide receiver D.J. Moore, a prospect in the first tier of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s ranking of the 2018 NFL Draft receiver class.
D.J. Moore, Maryland (6-0, 210) Depth of Talent Score: 87.25 = Starter: Capable of a larger role and learning on the go.
Moore is tied with Ridley on my board. Since this is a pre-draft publication and we don’t know the eventual destinations of these players, my tiebreaker goes to Ridley, because he had a slightly higher Breadth of Talent Score.
Ridley displayed a slightly more versatile baseline of skills that the broadest cross-section of NFL teams seeks from the wide receiver position. However, it’s not enough for me to debate anyone who prefers Moore. If Ridley doesn’t earn a strong timing passer from the pocket, Moore offers a greater upside.
During my first passes studying Moore’s game, I saw a promising player, but I didn’t see the extent of his athletic ability and technical skill. With subsequent viewings, it became abundantly clear that Moore was one of the better options in this class.
By the time I finished my rounds of Moore’s games, he was one of the three best receivers I’ve seen this year. If he can develop consistency in two specific areas of his game, he could wind up the best of this class by a good margin.
Moore has the build, strength, and balance of a running back. His decision-making and movement in the open field are so efficient that it’s easy to miss how sudden he is. He is a quick, physical player with notable hand-eye coordination and body control who runs smooth routes and works both from the slot and the outside.
His first-step acceleration is notable, and he comes off the line with his pads over his knees to sell the possibility of the vertical route and force defenders out of their backpedal. He has a productive inside-out release move and will reduce his shoulder from the reach of defenders or use a chop.
When he earns separation against press coverage, he’s shown he can stack his man. To reach his full potential, Moore must develop a greater arsenal of release moves. He gets plastered on his stems against physical corners because his release patterns quickly become predictable.
The second area of concern is Moore’s inconsistency along the boundary on fade routes. His limited library of release moves hurts him here, too. And, all too often, defenders can pin Moore to the boundary and force him to play the ball as a defender of potential interceptions rather than Moore working as the aggressor trying to win the ball. When Maryland placed Moore in a narrower split, closer to the line of scrimmage, and allowed him to work his way outside, he had an easier time earning position against his opponents.
The extent of Moore’s upside depends on the development of his releases against press-man and his game plan to earn an early and late position on fade routes. If he masters both tasks, he’ll be an exciting player that will be difficult to contain. His work against off coverage and from the slot is where he’ll likely thrive early on. Moore understands how to widen his stems, vary his pace, or use a head fake to manipulate the defender over top.
Moore consistently earns proper depth with his routes and he throttles in and out of breaks as fast as anyone in this draft. He accelerates into the break at the top of his stem, drops his weight, executes sudden turns, and attacks the ball. Moore also executes snap turns with a one-step speed break. He’s competent, if not adept, at finding the open zone in the middle of the field.
On the outside, Moore has a smooth stutter-and-go, which complements his well-run hitches, curls, and in-cuts. If Moore can become a masterful one-on-one receiver against press-man—and the strength and quickness are there for him to do it—he’ll pose difficulties for the opponent’s best cover corner.
With his current combination of strengths, an offense can potentially motion Moore around the field to create matchup advantages. How immediate this option will be dependent on the speed of Moore’s acclimation to the offense.
Moore catches the ball with his hands away from his frame on high and low targets. He’ll also layout for the ball on targets that force full extension to his left or right.
Moore high-points the ball effectively against tight coverage and his hands are strong enough that he can secure the ball even if a defender is hitting the ball as he’s doing so. He’ll also come down with the ball when hit in the back.
Targets on the move aren’t a problem. Moore tracks the ball over his shoulder and makes plays on targets hitting him in stride. He has good boundary awareness and technique—dragging the back foot or dotting the feet inbounds, depending on his position along the sideline and the nature of the target. He has some acrobatic plays of this type in his portfolio.
There are plays where Moore leaves his feet unnecessarily for targets that arrive near his frame and a leap wasn’t necessary. There are also targets that arrive above his chest where Moore will use an underhand position. He has a healthy amount of difficult receptions on his resume but when he drops the ball, lapses with hand position are the most common culprit.
Moore excels after the catch. He’s a powerful runner who looks like he’s gliding through defenses until you catch just the right angle to see how strong his acceleration truly is. He often runs with a great bend in his hips and pad level, which helps him get under contact or drive through it.
He bounces off a lot of indirect contact and when an outside linebacker reaches and wraps, Moore often takes these players for a tour of the seam lasting 4-6 yards. Safeties aren’t guaranteed a highlight hit when they earn a shot on Moore from a position over the top. Moore has the leverage and strength to run over them or at least push through without as much as a stumble.
When Moore lacks the momentum to drop the pads and demolish, he spins off contact and extends for additional yardage through wraps. When knocked off balance, he has an effective balance-touch mechanism to get back on track or at least extend the play a little longer.
Moore’s stiff-arm wards off the reaches of defenders when he can anticipate contact. He also turns his pads away from direct angles and maintains a gait with high knees to work through extraneous contact. Linebackers and safeties have a difficult time keeping a hand on him if they try to tackle Moore at waist level or above.
In addition to his size, Moore’s after-contact acceleration is another asset that a lot of receivers lack. He can accelerate after breaking a wrap at the second level of the defense and still pull away from defensive backs in the open field.
Although a powerful receiver with strong contact balance, he’s an excellent runner in the open field. He sets up defenders over top with a linear style that he unexpectedly switches up with a jump cut at full speed that can span the width of that defender’s pads and sends the man sprawling. When outflanked, Moore will split defenders and push for what he can get.
Moore has decent ball security. He carries the ball under the arm that’s away from the pursuit and he’ll switch the ball when necessary. His carriage is high but the elbow swings loose from his frame when he’s at full speed in the open field.
Moore takes on linebackers and defensive backs as a blocker. He moves with his opponent and stays close enough to deliver his hands or remain locked-on, so he can turn to use the defender’s momentum to his advantage.
A lot of receivers aren’t good at closing the gap at this stage of their careers, but Moore is. He has some struggles with his angle of approach on stalk blocks. He has an uppercut punch but has to use it more often.
Moore has the upside to become a primary option, but even if the elevator of his development stops a floor below as a WR2, his timing routes, inside-out versatility, and open-field work should make him a consistent starter. Even if he doesn’t master the fade route, his red-zone prowess still has upside because he’s tough to defend on a variety of routes that exploit his size, quick cuts, burst, and running. Moore will be tough to stop on slants, posts, shallow routes, and wide routes where he’s motioned across the formation to an empty flat.
The Golden Tate comparison I’ve seen floating around—and also came to mind for me initially—isn’t a bad one for his immediate style. If Chris Godwin develops into the player I expect, Moore is closer in physical profile and potential versatility. Still, he’s a more rugged player than Godwin.
It puts a player like David Boston within the spectrum. If Moore develops his perimeter game as a rebounder, he could develop into a steroid-free version of Boston.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Moore, like Ridley, will be sought after as one of the top five receivers in most drafts. There is greater polarization with Moore’s value than Ridley so he’s more prone to sliding down draft boards at this time. With that potential variability as a factor, approach Moore’s pre-NFL Draft value similar to Ridley.
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