Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We continue today with wide receiver Elijah Moore.
Moore was selected with the 34th overall pick in the second round. The 21-year old, who is listed at 5’9” and 178 pounds, was a first-team all-SEC selection and consensus all-American in 2020 after catching 86 passes for almost 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. In all, he caught 189 passes for 2,441 yards and 16 touchdowns in three years at Ole Miss.
As was the case with Alijah Vera-Tucker, Moore was a four-star recruit and Under Armour all-American coming out of high school and was highly-sought after by major college programs. Having originally been planning to go to Georgia, Moore decommitted and went to Ole Miss instead, where he immediately established himself as a contributor.
In his true freshman season, Moore started four games and caught 36 passes for 398 yards and two scores while also contributing on special teams. Then, as a sophomore, Moore started all 12 games and racked up 67 catches for 850 yards and six scores.
His junior campaign was a breakout season as he racked up 86 catches for 1,193 yards and eight scores in the first eight games and then opted out of the remainder of the season to prepare for the draft. In doing so, he missed out on a chance to decimate the school’s record books, but was still voted as an all-SEC first-teamer and consensus all-American.
Moore racked up over 100 receiving yards 11 times in his college career, including three 200-yard games.
An excellent pro day workout established Moore as a potential first round pick, but the Jets were able to select him with the second pick of the second round.
Now let’s take a look at what Moore brings to the table, divided into categories.
Moore is small but is strong and physical for his size and doesn’t have small hands. He showcased outstanding speed and agility at his pro day workout with a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.00 short shuttle and a 6.67 three-cone drill. Those time would have placed him 3rd, 2nd and 2nd among all players at the 2020 scouting combine.
His explosiveness numbers were above average too and he managed 17 bench press reps, which is excellent for his size.
At his size, Moore projects best to a slot receiver role and that’s almost exclusively where he played in his first two seasons. However, he expanded his role in 2020 and caught 25 passes while lined up either in the backfield or out wide, albeit that many of these were in bunch formations.
Moore also became more of a threat on running plays such as jet sweeps and end arounds in 2020 with 64 yards on 14 carries having registered just seven yards on seven carries in his first two seasons. He also had a lot of touches on pop-passes, which obviously count as pass receptions.
Moore did also take a handful of snaps as a wildcat quarterback during his college career. He threw one pass, a two-yard completion.
Moore was a downfield threat in his first two years but caught just 26 percent of his targets. However, in the 2020 season he showed a dramatic improvement, catching nearly 60 percent of his downfield targets and making a bunch of big plays, including four touchdowns. Of course, any year-on-year variance could also be attributable to the quarterback.
With his 4.35 speed, Moore is capable of getting behind the defense and a threat to take it to the house on a blown coverage. He makes good use of double-moves to get open deep and tracks the ball superbly.
Moore has outstanding hands and is one of the most natural hands catchers you could hope to see. He can go up to get it, dive for or scoop up low passes and adjusts well to the ball in the air.
What’s impressive about Moore is that he does everything at full speed. Many receivers have to slow down to catch the ball when running crossing routes, but Moore doesn’t break stride and is also adept at corralling wayward short passes or pitches so that he doesn’t have to break stride when advancing the ball.
The effortlessness of this catch is unbelievably impressive as he plucks it out of the air with his left hand despite the deflection and never needs to slow down.
Moore had one of the best catch rates in the nation in 2020 with just two drops, both of which were actually debatable as to whether they should even have been counted as drops. He did drop six passes in 2019, though.
Moore’s route running ability is fun to watch because he displays technique, creativity and deceptiveness. His breaks are so sharp, it’s often difficult for the defensive back to stay close to him.
It’s clear that Moore has worked hard at his route running techniques and has an innate ability to get free from man to man coverage. Check out how effectively he sells the slant route on this play, leaving himself wide open up the seam.
When working from the slot, he was deadly on slants, crossers and out-breaking routes. The Jets may even seek to expand his repertoire further at the pro level.
Yards after the catch
With the ball, Moore is fast, elusive and displays toughness and vision. The Rebels made the most of this in 2020 as they threw him way more passes behind the line of scrimmage than in his first two seasons, and to good effect.
In 2020, Moore was fifth in the nation in total yardage after the catch despite only playing eight games. Although he’s small, he shows an ability to break tackles.
Moore did not have any fumbles on offense during his three years with the Rebels.
Moore had several red zone touchdowns in his college career, plus one two-point conversion. A few of these were on pop-passes which is a good option near the goal line with his nose for the end zone.
His ability to get open on rub routes and plays like this make him a good option down near the goal line.
The Jets have added some terrific blockers to their wide receiver room this year but the undersized Moore is unlikely to be much of a difference maker. A lot of the time, Ole Miss would just have him drop off to the flat as a decoy rather than attempt to make a block on a running play.
With that said, he hasn’t been a complete liability although it’s an area where he needs to develop. He’s too slow to engage here, allowing his man to blow up the run when the ball carrier cuts back.
Moore will usually give a good effort though. On this screen pass, he’s lined up in the slot and manages to hold his ground as the defensive back tries to drive him off his spot.
Moore was called for a personal foul for an illegal blindside block against Alabama last year and had one holding penalty in 2019.
Despite his lack of size, Moore is fearless going over the middle and capable of hanging onto the ball after a big hit. He does well here to make the adjustment on a ball thrown behind him.
There may be concern over how he might be able to handle press coverage but in the South Carolina game, Moore was killing the Gamecocks, so they switched Jaycee Horn onto him and Moore beat Horn’s press coverage here, disguising his release and using his hands to free himself from the jam.
In other situations where teams have tried to press him, he’s shown that he has a plan, so this isn’t always a viable way to shut him down.
Moore also showed improvements on making contested catches in 2020 and will lean on or step across defenders to create natural separation when running routes.
He was called for one offensive pass interference penalty in 2020 but that was the only one of his career.
In college, Moore’s main special teams contributions were on the return units. However, his numbers were underwhelming as he averaged just 18.5 yards on kickoff returns and less than five yards per punt return.
Despite these poor numbers, Moore did have a couple of spectacular returns, including a 55-yard punt return. He has a tendency to dance around a bit, but had some plays where he created extra yardage with his quick changes of direction in a tight space.
The Jets may not be confident in Moore’s ability to field punts securely because he had three muffed punts in college.
As an offensive starter, Moore likely wouldn’t be a full-time starting return man anyway, but perhaps we shouldn’t rule out him being used there in certain situations - perhaps if the Jets were losing and in need of a spark.
Moore saw limited action on kick coverage units and also had a few snaps on the field goal block unit but didn’t make any significant contributions in these roles other than one play where he recovered a muffed punt.
Moore is so good at getting open against man coverage that there aren’t that many situations on film of him finding the open spot in a zone or improvising a route once a play gets extended. Clearly he does a good job of reading the defense and reacting to his man, though.
One place where he shows excellent instincts is in terms of his vision when running the ball or in the open field.
Moore was called for just one pre-snap penalty in his career - a false start in 2019.
The main potential red flag in terms of Moore’s character stems from a controversial incident in the 2019 Egg Bowl where he was penalized 15 yards for an end zone celebration and the Rebels ended up missing the extra point and losing the game 21-20.
The Jets have reportedly reassured themselves that this was a one-off and that Moore has matured a lot since learning from that incident. It’s also worth noting that both DK Metcalf and Odell Beckham Jr. have done the same celebration (pretending to pee like a dog) and it didn’t impact upon their pro career.
His former teammate AJ Brown and coach Lane Kiffin have both lauded Moore’s work ethic and Kiffin has praised him for being a leader and constantly focused on improving.
Moore is not short on confidence, having called himself the best offensive player in the whole draft.
Injuries didn’t really affect Moore during his college career although when he decided to opt out, Kiffin defended him by saying that he was battling some nagging injuries at the time. No specifics were given and Kiffin may have just been shielding his player from any undue criticism for letting the team down.
Moore will primarily contribute as a slot receiver but his versatility to do other things will make him a valuable weapon in Mike LaFleur’s offense.
The offense will use west coast principles, which will call for precision in route-running and a timing-based offense. If Moore can develop chemistry with Wilson, the pair could be deadly in this system.
Moore was a teammate of fellow Jets rookie tight end Kenny Yeboah at Ole Miss.
Moore is an exciting player who could develop into the kind of weapon the Jets haven’t had for years if he stays healthy. His technical ability is impressive, both in terms of getting open and catching the ball and he’s an awesome athlete with good character.
If Moore develops as quickly as hoped, the next question is what happens to the rest of the receiver corps. Corey Davis and Denzel Mims are expected to start on the outside with Keelan Cole available to back up both on the boundary and inside.
If the Jets decide to retain both Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios then Crowder might end up having to split reps with Moore and Berrios could end up going back to just being a return specialist. Of course, in practice, they’ll probably have to deal with an injury or two, but if everyone is healthy something will have to give.