Junior wide receiver DJ Moore leaves Maryland with a bunch of accolades under his belt. In 2017, he set the Terps’ single-season record in receptions with 80, and in yards with 1,033. His 17 career touchdowns ranks 4th all time, and he capped off his season named the Big Ten wide receiver of the year and first-team all Big Ten Conference.
According to Pro Football Focus, he averaged 2.78 yards per route last season, which ranks him 18th in this draft class. That’s a healthy number, considering that defenses knew that he was going to get his targets. His 132 targets were the 6th-most among draft-eligible WRs, and 36% of the routes he ran he were targeted by his quarterbacks.
Most of the routes run by Moore were along the perimeter and to the left side of the field. When I turned on the film, his route tree seemed very straightforward. Lots of go routes, stutter-goes, WR screens, comebacks, and in-breaking routes from the slot.
Considering his quarterback play, some of his numbers are pretty remarkable. At times, it was difficult to watch. They airmailed passes, often were off target and and didn’t allow him to create after the catch, or just downright didn’t throw it to him when he was open. But he isn’t without fault, and I will highlight some of his weaknesses along with some of his plus traits, so let’s get to the film.
One of Moore’s finer traits is his willingness and effectiveness as a blocker. This is something that most receivers are either born with or not. This shows up on all of his film reels.
Another area of his game that coaches are going to love at the next level is his ability to create after the catch. Simple, short rub routes or WR screens are plays that he can turn into chunk gains. Here is a simple rub concept that plays out almost as if it’s a screen. As soon as he catches the ball there is zero hesitation; he immediately turns upfield. Finally, he doesn’t shy away from contact; he puts his head down and finishes.
On the following play, there’s some good and some bad, and it really encapsulates why I believe he is more of a day two pick. Moore doesn’t exhibit the ability to separate versus press/man corners. I would like to see him continue to fight and swat the defender’s hands off of him. He doesn’t, and the defensive back is able to stay in his pocket. Moore slightly pushes off at the top, and it gives him just enough room to operate. He needed it because the throw was off target. He shows off his ability to catch the ball away from his frame, keep the ball away from the DB and get one foot down.
One of the reasons that Moore projects to be a very good receiver on Sundays is the fluidity in his hips. He can go from full speed to quickly dropping his hips and driving back to the ball. That’s exactly what he does here. The route is designed to attack the overlap area between the corner and safety, and Moore does a good job of selling it. Toward the top of the route stem, he uses his eyes to hold the safety, drops his hips and breaks back to the ball, catches with his hands and doesn’t waste time turning upfield.
While Moore didn’t have many receptions over the middle, that wasn’t because of a lack of skill or mindset. The lack of steady production over the middle had to do more with the QBs than anything. He shows that he is not afraid to go over the middle. On this play, the offense runs a run-pass option and Moore catches the ball between the corner and safety. He knows a big hit is coming, but he is prepared, lowers his shoulder, absorbs the hit and gains a couple yards. Running a post into a single high post safety is trouble, but Moore holds it down.
The Philly native plays a physical game, but it doesn’t always translate until he hits the top of routes. Defensive backs typically take it to him during his drive phase, and that can be seen here. It’s not until the top of the route where he gains some separation. Unfortunately, the coverage is so tight it deters the QB from throwing it his way.
On third down, Maryland comes out in a 3×1 set and Moore is aligned in the slot. He runs a crossing route and gets a free release, but he has to adjust to the inaccurate pass. Another dangerous play over the middle, especially with Moore knowing the defensive back is waiting in the shadows. He jumps up, snatches the ball and crosses the plane.
Moore made so many catches in traffic, catches where the passes were inaccurate with the possibility of a big hit looming, but it never stopped him from making a play.
While this game is out of hand and the coverage by the defense is soft, I wanted to highlight again how quickly he gets upfield post-catch. It’s almost like there is no transition from receiver to runner. It’s sudden and should allow him to be a YAC monster at the next level.
Now to one of his warts. Over his 36 game stretch, he has dropped 15 balls. Last season alone he dropped 7. Of course, the quarterbacks’ inaccuracies do play a part in this, but he needs to catch the ball. Here, he lets the pass get into him; it deflects and ends up going the other way.
On Sundays, corners are going to be better, coverage is going to be tighter, he will not get away with body-catching, improper catching technique, or lapses in concentration. Those moments will turn into pick sixes regularly and put him on the bench. Here, the ball gets on him too fast and ends up in the hands of Holton Hill, taken the other way.
He is so effective at running comebacks that when he runs stutter-gos or double moves, corners bite hard. He blows by the corner here and goes up and gets the ball. A better ball and this is a touchdown.
He is very Golden Tate-esque when the ball is in his hands. He is able to slice through traffic, but also able to break tackles. Per Pro Football Focus, he forced 39 missed tackles on 146 receptions.
I really like the idea of using him in isolation series. Put him as the solo WR in the backside of 3×1 sets and let him work. Moore does a really nice job of using his hands at the top of this route, but it isn’t quite in sync with his feet. It’s perfect hand placement by Moore on the elbow/upper arm area to push the DB wide, but he isn’t in his break, so the extra steps after the push off give the State defender the ability to recover. The pass is high, and it’s almost good that it was, or else maybe the DB makes a play on the ball, but hell of a catch.
Moore is a solid day two receiver that will more than likely benefit from better QB play at the next level. He needs to clean up some of his drop issues, but when the ball is in his hands he is able to produce. He is a solid route runner, has loose hips and the alpha mentality that you do not see come around often with receivers. As decorated a career as he had at Maryland, I expect his game to continue to improve and for him to have a consistent and productive career in the NFL.