2021 NFL Draft | Elijah Moore: Rebel with a cause

11/13/2020
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For the last two seasons, one of the most overlooked players in college football has been Elijah Moore from Ole Miss. It’s hard to believe that a four-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, would be overlooked. Maybe it’s that the Rebels went 4-8 during the 2019 season. Or it could be that they’re currently 2-4 with a shortened football season due to COVID-19.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time to start keeping tabs on Moore. He’s a 5-foot-9 and 185-pound wide receiver that does it all for the Rebels. So much, he’s led them in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns over the last two seasons. In 2019, he had 67 receptions for 850 yards and six touchdowns. Currently, he has 61 receptions for 829 yards and six touchdowns. There’s still four games left to be played so there’s a good chance he sets some career highs by the time 2020 comes to an end.

Before becoming one of the most productive wide receivers in college football, he was originally committed to play football for the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite offers from schools such as Auburn and Alabama, Moore decided to decommit from the Bulldogs and ended up signing his letter of intent with Ole Miss. Now he’s producing at an incredibly high level. Some would call it good luck but I consider it all skill and hard work. Each week, Moore continues to show his next-level abilities.

Quick hitch and curl route 

You can be a rookie quarterback or a 15-year veteran with a beard and awesome dress shirts. Regardless, there’s a quick passing game ready for every offense in the NFL. It’s not always crossers or slant routes that move the sticks, hitch routes and curl routes are just as effective. For a quarterback, it’s reassuring to know that you can take your three-step drop, scan from left to right and quickly deliver a strike to the open hitch or curl route that’s open around the numbers.

When  Moore (WR No. 8) is on the field, he could easily become that type of player for a quarterback. In fact, he’s already done so for the Ole Miss Rebels with 10 targets and nine receptions on curl routes this season (per Sports Info Solutions). This has resulted in 94 yards for the talented junior wide receiver. In the play above, you see the quarterback take a three-step drop and scan the field from his left to his right. He does this to play the cornerback off some on the curl route at the top of screen being ran from Moore. This leads to a big fourth down conversion and some yards after the catch.

Next for Ole Miss, it’s second-and-1 and it runs a split-zone RPO where the H-back runs behind the offensive line to his left. The offensive line all steps to their right and forces the defense to bite forward on the potential run and this gives the quarterback the option to pull the ball and zip it downfield to an open receiver. That receiver happens to be Moore who is running a quick hitch at the top of the screen. This leads to a completion and as you can see, Moore isn’t an easy person to bring down. He shakes off tacklers and gains additional yardage.

Sluggo route for touchdown

It’s always exciting to watch a wide receiver run a double move and put a defensive back in a blender. When the wide receiver would be considered “undersized” to the size of a traditional No. 1 wide receiver, it’s even more fun. Per SIS, Moore has three targets on a double move this year and it’s led to three receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Knowing that a player with this type of athletic ability can slip behind safeties or defeat man coverage is a promising sign for his stock in the 2021 NFL Draft.

In the play above, Moore is running a sluggo route that leads to a touchdown. Just by watching him start the slant route, he shows how fluid he is when breaking toward the middle of the field. However, what’s most impressive, is how he drops his hips and explodes off his inside foot to get upfield. This leads to him creating plenty of separation and forcing the cornerback to retreat. By this time, he’s already got the cornerback beat and this leads to one of his six touchdowns on the season.

Dig route toward the sideline 

So far we’ve seen what Moore can do in the quick passing game and it’s clear that he’s got the route running ability to score touchdowns deep down the field. What about winning across the middle of the field? No worries, he can do that. This might not sound as important ,but when the quarterback can’t get out of the pocket and he needs to step up in the pocket and make a throw across the middle, it’s important to have a reliable target in the middle. Meanwhile, if the pocket collapses and the quarterback evades pressure and extends the play, you need a wide receiver that keeps working towards the sideline to help continue to buy the quarterback time.

Here, the Rebels align in a twins right formation. Moore is playing as the ‘Z’ receiver and simply runs the dig route. As the pocket begins to collapse on the quarterback, he stands tall and keeps his eyes on Moore the entire way. Never slowing down, Moore gets open and this leads to another first down for the Rebels. According to Sports Info Solutions (SIS), Moore has seven targets and seven receptions for 123 yards on dig routes this season. Without question, it’s one of his most successful routes ran this season.

Jet sweep for positive yards 

Lastly, it’s just a huge positive for a wide receiver to be involved in some of the “gadget” plays that are installed in an offensive playbook. Whether it’s being involved on some type of designed screen, end-around or, in this case, a jet sweep. For Moore, he has only six carries for 17 yards this season. Despite the numbers being relatively low, it doesn’t mean he’s not capable of breaking one of these runs for a much longer gain or potential touchdown.

In the play above, the Rebels are aligned 2×2 and playing in the slot on the bottom of the screen; Moore motions across. Once the ball is snapped, he takes the handoff from the quarterback and quickly cuts up field. The defense plays this pretty well with the cornerback coming down to clog the rushing lane but most importantly, the linebacker takes a nice angle towards Moore to make the tackle. Regardless, it’s always nice to have a player with this type of ability in your back pocket for your offense.

Closing thoughts

There’s plenty of games left to be played for teams everywhere so don’t write any players off and certainly don’t write anything down in sharpie. With that being said, there’s a lot to like when watching Moore. The talented junior wide receiver has shown that he can become a “do-it all” wide receiver for a team.

Currently, Moore leads college football with 61 receptions and with four games left to play. With the pace he’s currently on, he could easily have over 100 receptions for the year. That’s not bad considering the shortened season. With his ability to track the football and development as a route runner, he should start gaining more attention.

Keep in mind, he’s showcases some of the best hands (one drop on 63 catchable targets this season) in the country. If your team is looking for a middle-to-late Day 2 pick for a quality wide receiver who will produce for you consistently throughout the season, look no further.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.

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