As the NFL offseason focus has shifted to the 2021 rookie class and their development on their new teams, few, if any, have received the rave reviews as New York Jets WR Elijah Moore. Although the Jets enter the season with a crowded receiver room, could Moore emerge to lead their receiver corps in 2021?
Elijah Moore could be the next great Ole Miss receiver
There are some colleges that you instantly recognize as a powerhouse for certain positions. For instance, Iowa is known for their tight ends, Penn State their running backs, LSU’s wide receivers, and Alabama — well, everyone on defense.
As for Ole Miss, they are quickly becoming a hotbed for incredible wide receivers. After producing both D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown, Moore looks primed to join these ranks and etch his name into Jets’ history.
Selected as the No. 34 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Moore put himself on the map after a head-turning junior campaign. He was the primary weapon in Lane Kiffin’s offense in 2020, totaling 86 receptions, 1,193 yards, and 8 touchdowns — all in just eight games.
If not for DeVonta Smith‘s Heisman-winning season, Moore would have been the nation’s top receiver. Moore finished last year with six games over 100 receiving yards and three over 200. Additionally, he recorded 505 of his receiving yards after the catch.
Moore wins at virtually every level of the field and especially off the line with lightning-quick footwork — he knows how to create separation. Moreover, his route running will allow him to produce right away in the NFL.
Moore tested off the charts with a 4.35 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical jump, 121-inch broad jump, and 6.67 three-cone drill in the pre-draft process.
Although there are concerns with his size (5-foot-9 and 178 pounds), Moore is one of the toughest pound-for-pound receivers of this class. However, his on-field awareness will keep him from taking massive shots over the middle.
There have been comparisons made between Moore and one of the generations-best in Antonio Brown. And honestly, I think they might be onto something.
How does Elijah Moore fit into the revamped receiver depth chart?
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the Jets in 2021. After years of disappointment under Adam Gase, New York pulled the plug following a 2-14 season. Thus, the Jets ushered in a new era with HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur. With this change also came new offensive talent.
The Jets brought in former Titans WR Corey Davis on a lucrative three-year, $37 million deal. Furthermore, they drafted a new franchise QB in BYU’s Zach Wilson. Together, they join newly re-signed Jamison Crowder, 2020 second-round pick Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and Braxton Berrios.
Davis set career-highs with 65 receptions, 984 yards, and 5 touchdowns in his fourth NFL season. He will work on the perimeter as the de-facto “X.” Although, in an offense that will operate similarly to the 49ers, alignment can be fluid at times.
Mims, according to reports, seems to be the odd man out. For someone who was a second-round pick a year ago, this could be jarring. But that was with an older regime.
Mims struggled as he registered just 23 receptions for 357 yards in an injury-riddled rookie season. Also, Mims is a vertical-threat style receiver which is not what this offense focuses on. While it is early camp talk and needs to be taken with a grain of salt, Mims running with the twos is less than ideal.
Jamison Crowder’s re-signing will play a pivotal role in Moore’s early success
Crowder is the most interesting player when it comes to Moore. Both receivers will look to compete for the same snaps out of the slot. Just last season, Crowder aligned in the slot on over 70% of his snaps. There, he caught 40 of 58 receptions for 479 yards and 3 touchdowns.
It is not a stretch to say he has been the best offensive player on the Jets since he arrived in 2019. Crowder has caught 137 passes (211 targets) for 1,532 yards and 12 touchdowns in 28 games.
This impacts Moore because based on his athletic profile and usage in college, this is where we expect him to line up. While at Ole Miss, nearly 90% of his snaps came from the slot, which resulted in 61 receptions and 888 yards. However, do not discount his vertical abilities either. Moore accumulated 490 yards on 11 receptions beyond 20 yards (tied ninth-most) while finishing with 11 contested catches.
The wild card in this scenario is Mims. Should the Jets feel that he simply does not fit the offense, Moore could move to the perimeter or as a “Z” and essentially give us an East Coast version of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Can Elijah Moore lead the Jets’ offense as a rookie in 2021?
In short, absolutely, but the cards need to fall the right way. First off, the rapport with Wilson needs to keep building, and from all reports, that has not been a problem.
When you have a group with as much ambiguity as the Jets’ offense, little details built now at mandatory minicamps can pay massive dividends in the fall. They may even be enough to push a player to the top of the progression.
The money suggests that Davis is the likely candidate to be the focal point of the offense. Yet, his track record for consistency is, well, inconsistent.
Crowder has been a target machine, but injuries have been an Achilles’ heel. In addition, Mims seems to be slipping further down the Jets depth chart and might not be a starter in Week 1.
When you look at the external factors — athletic fit and scheme of the offense — there is a legitimate chance Moore is the leading receiver of the Jets’ offense. Everything from his dynamic sense of play, precision route running, and ability to win in short-to-intermediate areas alone with deeper aDOT routes all suggest a player ready to make an impact out of the gates.
If I am going to bet on a rookie to surprise the masses in 2021, I am going all-in on Moore.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.