During the 2021 NFL Draft I personally had a number of players circled on my sheet that I wanted the New York Jets to pick. Elijah Moore was one of those players. He was the 30th player on my board so for the Jets to get him at 34 was a win Joe Douglas said he had Moore rated in his top 25 so he was a minor steal if you believe their analysis.
As Douglas stated:
“We really didn’t think Elijah had any chance to make it to us. To get a player of his caliber at 34, we had a unique opportunity to add three players Zach Wilson at No. 2 and Alijah Vera-Tucker (trading up to No. 14) who were in the top 25 on our board. All three first-round caliber guys are impact players for us. While you do answer calls [to move down], this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up to take Elijah.”
Players who are primarily slot type receivers in the NFL are usually rated a bit lower than receivers (of equal ability) who play on the outside. The reason being is an outside receiver needs a larger skill set as a player which makes those players harder to find. Outside receivers often play on the line of scrimmage as the last man on the line to make the formation legal. By being there they are open to press coverage by cornerbacks. So outside receivers need speed, strength (to get off the press), and the ability to separate from speedy-quick corners. They also should have great hands, the ability to drop their hips and get into then out of breaks, and excel at contested catch situations.
The main asset a slot receiver needs is quickness. The second is great hands. Since slot receivers usually play off the line of scrimmage they are near impossible to press. If they have great quickness they would escape any press attempt which would leave the cornerback in the dust and the receiver wide open.
Moore has great quickness but combines that with other skills which make him more valuable. Some of the skills I noted in my Draft report:
He has a lean, muscular frame with oily hips to get in then out of breaks. He is a fluid receiver, makes moves at full speed look so effortless while breaking into the clear. He is a tough kid who can take a shot but still hold onto the ball. He has exceptional quickness and speed combined with terrific elusiveness makes him a threat to make any play a splash play. He has solid hands dropping only 2 of 101 targets this year with a completion rate of over 86% of those targets. He ran a high variety of routes, often getting deep down the seam and poco (post corner) routes. He had 21 screen receptions on the year but still had a 10.9 average depth of targets. He has tremendous balance combined with a sturdy frame; he tied for 6th with the most forced missed tackles on the year with 18. He had 11 catches that went over 20 yards in the air which was tied for 9th in college football. He is a high volume receiver who can be a chain mover as well as a occasional deep threat. He had a phenomenal 3.85 yards per route run in 2020 which is outstanding considering Justin Jefferson led the NFL in that stat at 3.16 yards per route run (per Reddit).
These are just some of his physical tools. He has a strong mental acuity to understand intricate defensive schemes then defeat them. He is a player with a strong will. He fights through adversity and always come to play and plays hard. He played on a team with a horrific defense and a average at best QB but never wavered in his desire to play his hardest. He was a team leader who was admired by his teammates while always encouraging them no matter the situation. He is a player with great character and would be a strong building block for any team looking to start anew. Moore will be a strong, positive voice in the locker room and a leader on the field. He should be the favorite receiver of a new QB with his ability to separate and get open quickly with the ability to make a splash play.
I can’t overstate enough the character issue. A team that has had the type of or lack of success like the Jets are in serious need of strong positive leaders like Moore. A few players like Moore can lift an entire team up, willing them to do their best. An NFL season is a long arduous journey, an emotional rollercoaster filled with pain, heartbreak and angst. To have some team leaders with the right mental attitude is essential.
Let’s take a look at some of the plays Moore made during the last year at Ole Miss.
This play is emblematic of the types of plays Moore is capable of making. First you must understand the situation. His team is down by a TD in the third quarter, against the eventual national champion on a 2nd and 22 play. He is set up in the slot to the left of his QB and is supposed to cross the field, getting lost in the traffic. When the QB has to escape the pocket to the left he is unable to get the ball out.
He traverses back across the field, finding not only the soft spot in the defense but also a window for his QB to throw into. The QB is throwing back across his body while at the same time falling backward. The throw is more of a wounded duck than a pass yet Moore is able to make a shoestring catch while on the move. Moore is able to maintain his balance and keep moving forward, barley breaking stride while picking up the first down.
This is Moore improvising on the play, becoming a QB friendly receiver, seeing the defense then instantly knowing where to flow to get open while giving his QB a window. He shows great hands and balance with the ability to get the first down.
Here is some of the same type action against Florida who is dropping into a zone defense. Moore’s route is meant to go outside, but he is being covered up by defenders who have dropped into deep zone coverage. There is no window for his QB to throw the ball. Moore has to change that and he does.
Moore is able to read the defense then cut back in front of the cornerbacks and between the linebackers to allow a throwing lane. He is able to do so while moving upfield. This is a 3rd and 19 play so Moore is able to gain the first down plus 9 yards.
Moore is a thinking man’s receiver with great skill, he takes pride in what he does. He said as much in an interview with Jack Bell of NYJets.com.
“I feel like I understand the craft, I feel like football and being a receiver is more than catching the ball and just running. I feel like you have to understand what you’re doing and the art of getting open. I take pride in it. There’s a lot more that goes on out there than what people see on the TV. If they really understood, they would think it is something beautiful.”
On this next play in the same game Moore is in the slot to the left of his QB. He is going to run what is similar to a choice route which means he will read the defense to decide which is the best route to take to get open. He is going to follow his outside receiver. This way he can watch the coverage on him then adjust to the coverages.
He was probably looking to cross the field (away from coverage) off the backside of his outside receiver. Yet he was amazed to see the seam just open up in front of him so he ran down the middle of the field. The throw was late, slow, and short so Moore had to wait for it. If the throw was on time, on a line in front of Moore this was a TD. Still it was a 57 yard gain on a simple pattern but read well by Moore. In this game Ole Miss was down by 14 at the half then gave up a TD on defense in the first 41 seconds of the 3rd quarter. Moore is playing like it’s a tied score. This is the norm for him. He had 227 yards receiving against a Florida defense littered with talent.
This next clip is of a favorite play of the SEC. I have seen Alabama, LSU and a host of other teams run this exact same play. I believe it is a Andy Reid play in KC that he runs with Tyreek Hill. The idea is to get a fast receiver (Moore ran 4.35/40 at his pro day) yo-yoing back and forth to shake the man coverage near the goal line.
This is a nice, easy play to run but it has some downside if a team is not careful. If you see this action you just have your outside corner switch with the inside cover man. If you do this the outside corner can slide out and intercept the ball and take it for a 100 yard pick six.
These are the type of plays I believe Mike LaFleur wants to run and of course Moore would be a natural to run them. He can play out of the backfield on edge rushes or jet sweeps.
This next route is a version of a sluggo (slant + go) route. Alabama has an 11 point lead with under 2 1⁄2 minutes to go in the game and are in a zone defense. Moore is in the slot to the right of the QB and comes off the snap hard then bends around the DB Malachi Moore. Once he passes the DB he immediately turns his head like he is looking for the ball. This action stops the retreating safety to that side who thinks he is going to get a ball jarring shot on Elijah once he makes the catch.
Once the safety takes the bait Moore puts his foot in the ground and flies by the player into the clear. Again the throw is late, short and off target as Moore has to slow down to wait on the throw. Had the throw been on time, five yards longer and to the outside (instead of leading Moore back towards the safety) this was a TD.
Moore has a varied route tree and is a special talent but he is far from a polished receiver. Like ALL college players who come into the NFL they have to develop their skills in order to improve enough to be a player that can be a difference maker. NFL players never stop improving their skill sets. There too are many nuances of technique for a college player to master before coming to the NFL. Quality NFL players have been honing their skills for years. It would be difficult for a rookie to instantly be better than many established NFL starters.
Here is a play where Moore does a poor job of route running even though it ends up with a TD catch for him. An NFL WR coach will be able to sit down with Moore and show him what he did wrong then give him tips on how to work on his route running. This is a simple out route on a slot corner with the outside receiver clearing out the coverage in front of him.
You can see that when Moore makes his break to the outside he rounds off his route allowing a quick/smart corner to slip inside of him for the interception which could go for a pick six. Plus the QB is rolling to that side of the formation which screams to the defense that the pass is coming to that side.
This is an easy fix as the corner is playing directly over top of him. All Moore has to do is run straight at him then drop his hips into the break then cut and explode out of the break. This will leave the corner behind (flatfooted) and Moore with momentum going away from him. There is no way for the corner to cover him with that technique.
Again this next clip is the type of play that the Jets want to use Moore for. With vertical receivers like Mims and Davis the Jets need a player that can stretch the defense horizontally as well. Moore is small but solid with good contact balance which is needed for a play like this.
The ability to get the edge is the key to this play. Once a player can get the edge the ability to maneuver through traffic will be essential (on a play not near the goal line). Moore is not overly elusive as a runner, but he doesn’t dance. He heads upfield, doesn’t give up ground, and gets all he can while always falling forward.
Head coach Robert Saleh stated his intentions for Moore:
“He can be in the backfield, he can get those jet sweeps. He can play the X (outside receiver). He can take the top off of the coverage. He’s dynamic in that you can do a lot of different things with him.
“He’s dynamic. When he gets the ball in his hands, he becomes something different. His ability to separate on routes, run the jet sweeps, come out of the backfield — he’s extremely versatile. I’m ecstatic he was able to get to us. There’s not a lot of things he can’t do.”
Acceleration is another aspect of the skill set of Moore. He has quick feet that allow him to blast out of breaks and get up to top speed in a few steps. Here is a clip that Moore runs a corner route. He does so successfully by making he corner stop his feet.
This is the inside-outside ability of Moore even though he is a diminutive receiver. In this game against the Commodores he tortured them for 238 yards receiving and 3 TDs. This is not an anomaly as Moore had double digit receptions in every game in 2020 but one.
This next clip is another variation on how the Jets will use Moore, not just as a slot receiver. On this play Moore is lined up in the backfield in a split backfield formation. You can run Moore as a running back, float him outside, or run him on a delay down the seam. There is no ILB or safety who can keep up with him once he gets to full speed.
This is the type of playmaking ability and versatility that I could see Matt LeFleur pounding the table for after the first round. Joe Douglas also reiterated that feeling later in an interview with Michael Kay:
“We all know that the SEC is the best league in terms of talent in college football and for Moore to have that production and ability to align in so many places — slot outside, tailback — is impressive. He has the ability to separate and outstanding ball skills, he’s not 6-feet, dangerous after the catch, strong for his size, toughness to go over middle that you see week-in and week-out at the highest level of college football.”
This next play the defense is playing quarters coverage, but they can’t account for the speed of Moore on this up and out pattern. The corner falls off into the flat and doesn’t realize Moore is going upfield until he is 10 yards in front of him, and the safety is late in coverage.
This is yet another play where Moore has to slow down to wait on the ball which allows the safety to make a play on him. The ball should have been thrown as soon as Moore his his own 45 yard line and led further downfield. This should have been a 70 yard TD throw but it is still a 55 yard play from player who is supposed to be a slot guy.
This last clip is again a play that could have been a TD but the throw was a bit short. Moore does show some vertical skills as he goes up to get the ball. A natural hands catcher, he will haul a pass in anywhere near his catch radius.
Moore starts out in the slot at the top of the screen then heads upfield and down the seam. He has track speed so once he gets even with a defender he is leaving him behind. You can see here that while Moore is on the shorter side he is solid physically.
I was thinking that once the Jets drafted Moore it could be the end of the line for Jamison Crowder because of his contract. Yet once you hear Joe Douglas talk about how he will use Moore all over the formation it might behoove the Jets to instead resign Crowder to an extension (lowering his 2021 salary) and keeping him with the team for a few more years.
A lineup of Mims, Davis, Crowder, Keelan Cole and Moore seems like it can grow into an above average receiving corps plus give our new QB some viable targets to work with. Also with Crowder still on the team you are not forcing too much work on a raw rookie all at once. Moore is a high quality player but it would be wise to let him assimilate himself into the offense at his own pace rather than force feeding him too much right away. His head will be swimming with all the new offense and verbiage to begin with lets not overwhelm him with too much. Keelan Cole’s versatility also alleviates some of the pressure to produce immediately by Moore. This is not to imply that Moore can’t be a difference maker right away but it allows him to adjust to the NFL without the dire need he produce day one.
Moore will want to be a featured player for the offense right away. It’s just in his nature. If the Jets can use him in spots effectively then that might be enough to begin with.
I think the selection of Elijah Moore was a great pick for the Jets. It turns a position that was looking like a team strength into more of a strength. I think Joe Douglas was thinking the same way when he had the second pick on day two with Moore and Teven Jenkins still on the board. hen the Jaguars selected Tyson Campbell the Jets had their choice of players. Denver moved up to the spot just behind the Jets (I’m sure they called about a trade.) but only gave up pick #114 in the 4th round. That was not enough to move Joe off his guy. I love the idea of trading down, but I want dynamic playmakers more.
It is about time the Jets offense dictated to the defense their style of play. With so many threats in the receiving corps the defense will have to play a little deeper which in turn should help our running game.
Lets hope he Elijah Moore is everything Jets fans wish for and Moore.
That’s what I think.
What do you think?