DJ Moore Has Arrived as an Elite Top 5 WR in the NFL
October 7, 2021
Ever since he entered the NFL, DJ Moore has been one of my favorite players. As a NFL prospect he checked every single box for me. As a rookie in 2018, he hit every threshold we like to see from WRs in their debut season and he led the league in YAC/reception. Then as a sophomore in 2019, as a 22 year old, he matched Mike Evans on contested catches and contested catch rate. Last year, in his 3rd season, he continued that historic age-relative productive start to his career and emerged as one of the NFL's best route runners. Now in his fourth season, the 24 year old has put it all together and has ascended into the NFL's most elite tier of WR talents by putting up top 5 numbers through 4 weeks on many important receiving metrics.
I've been waiting four years for this moment where I can confidently, enthusiastically, unapologetically announce that DJ Moore is a top 5 WR in the NFL -- and from this poll I ran on twitter earlier today, I know that most of you agree with me.
So with this excitement and confidence, and with inspiration from Ben Gretch's (@YardsPerGretch) Stealing Signals newsletter, I decided to blow off all of the other plans I had for tonight and write up this player profile on DJ Moore to explain why he is a top 5 WR in the NFL right now and why he is one of the best 24 year old WRs of all time.
As a prospect coming into the NFL, it almost literally does not get any better than DJ Moore from an analytics perspective.
College production? Check.
- 97th percentile college dominator
- 99th percentile target share
- 98th percentile breakout age
Athletic Metrics? Check.
- 89th percentile 40-yard dash
- 88th percentile speed score
- 94th burst score
- 89th percentile catch radius
- 74th percentile agility score
Draft Pedigree? Check.
Drafted with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He was also the youngest WR (of relevance) in his draft class, having just turned 21 years old a week before the draft occurred.
Rookie Year Elite Company
As a rookie in 2018, DJ Moore put up a strong stat line despite playing with an injured Cam Newton. He led all rookies in PFF receiving grade that season and he led all NFL WRs in yards after the catch per reception (min 50 targets, and both stats per PFF.com).
What really got me fired up about DJ Moore after his rookie season was an article put out by Curtis Patrick (@CPatrickNFL) at Rotoviz.com that introduced to us the 3 and 10 Rule for 21 year old rookie WRs. In his article, Curtis showed us that every 21 year old WR since 2000 who both averaged three receptions per game and played at least 10 games has subsequently gone on to post at least one top-20 WR PPR finish in their careers (and 85% of them subsequently went on to post at least one top-12 season). DJ Moore hit this threshold in his rookie season and put him in some very elite company, even further boosting expectations for his future.
I've thought about and referred back to this article many times in the 2+ years since Curtis Patrick wrote it, and I wouldn't be offended at all if you click that link and go subscribe to RotoViz right now to read it for yourself. In fact, I'd encourage you to go do that. Just come back after, okay? Cool, thanks.
Sophomore Contested Catch Bully
Right on cue, on the heels of a 87 reception (on 135 targets), 1,175 yard 4 TD season, D.J Moore became the 14th player out of 14 who met Curtis Patrick's 3 and 10 rule to put up a top 20 WR season, keeping the hit rate for this cohort at 100%.
Interestingly, Moore's growth in 2019 looked much different than what his production in 2018 would have predicted. After finishing first in the league in YAC/reception as a rookie in 2018, he finished 37th in this stat in 2019 among all WRs who had at least 50 targets (per PFF.com).
Instead of taking shorter passes (9.7 aDOT in his rookie season) and piling up yards after the catch, D.J Moore became more of a downfield threat (11.7 aDOT in 2019) who could compete with the best on contested catches (15 contested catches, 13th in the NFL).
D.J Moore went from looking like the next Golden Tate in 2018, to looking like the next Mike Evans in 2019.
Moore and Evans both had 15 contested catches on 29 contested targets in 2019, per PFF.
Junior Year Smooth Technician
So what would happen in D.J Moore's Junior season? Did he change up his game from emulating Golden Tate to mirroring Mike Evans, or did he simply add a new skill-set to further himself towards becoming a complete WR who could both pick up YAC and contest for balls with the best in the league?
To answer this question, there is no better place in the entire football world to turn other than to ReceptionPerception.com to see what Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) thinks in his 2020 Player Profile on DJ Moore.
You will have to go to Matt's website and subscribe to get the full story, but I'll give you the spark-notes here: it's GOOD.
In his third year in the NFL, DJ Moore improved from his first two seasons on every route in the Reception Perception route tree, continued to be an absolute stud after the catch, and continued to show the same strength and dominance at the catch point in year 3 as he did in year 2. According to Matt Harmon, Moore now "has the technical skills to get open at every level".
He developed into a complete WR. Entering year 4, the expectations would become immense.
Fourth Year Alpha Arrival
Over D.J. Moore's first three years in the NFL he snowballed together the profile of an elite WR who can win in a variety of ways. Entering year four, paired with a talented but underachieving young QB, there has been a lot of hype and hope that Moore could put it all together and establish his place alongside the most elite receivers in the game.
So far through four weeks, Moore has done just that. He has gotten open at will with his excellent route running. He has continued his dominance both at the catch point and after the catch. He has become a top 5 WR in the NFL.
A few stats that showcase DJ Moore's arrival to the top 5:
- T2nd in receptions
- T3rd in targets
- 4th in receiving yards
- 4th in yards after catch
- 5th in PFF receiving grade
- T6th in contested catches
This is not a fluke. This is not a product of match ups, or Joe Brady, or Sam Darnold (lol). We could see this coming from miles away because of DJ Moore's profile and his development and growth over the first 3 years of his career. He is doing this right now because he has always been destined to be doing this right now. DJ Moore has simply arrived at his destiny. He has arrived as one of the most elite alpha WRs in the NFL.
To wrap up, let's quickly recap the previous four sections, because when we add them up we get one of the most complete 24 year old WRs the NFL has ever seen.
- Historically rare college production
- Elite athletic metric prospect
- 1st round draft pick at a historically young age
- Led the NFL in YAC/reception in his 21 year old rookie season
- Tied Mike Evans for 13th in the NFL with 15 contested catches on 29 contested targets in his 22 year old sophomore season
- Became a top route runner in the NFL and earned the Matt Harmon stamp of approval in his junior season
- Reached the top 5 in many notable receiving metrics through 4 weeks in his fourth season, despite Sam Darnold throwing him the football
Every step of the way DJ Moore has grown as a receiver. He continues to build on his game, and continues his ascent toward the top of the league. It blows my mind that he won't be 25 years old until next April. I'm already viewing him as a top 5 WR in the NFL right now, and he is challenging for the WR1 overall spot for me in dynasty.
It's a beautiful thing that the market isn't fully there yet. I see people dismiss the idea of DJ Moore in the top 5 in dynasty leagues, let alone seasonal leagues.
Why?!?! Look at this kid's profile. There are no holes. He is one of the best 24 year old WRs in the history of the NFL. He is not going anywhere. He is going to continue this for the next 6+ years. He is the next perennially great WR.
If you have Adams, Hill, Diggs, Jefferson, or AJ Brown, you might even be able to trade one of those players for DJ Moore and a 1st right now. I can't explain how excited I just got typing that. I'm at the edge of my seat. I'd go make this trade myself, but I have already acquired DJ Moore in each of my leagues at some point in the past four years.
There is no excuse not to go buy high on DJ Moore right now. The cost almost doesn't even matter. Go get DJ Moore on your dynasty team.
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