D.J. Moore Still Carries Value (2019 Fantasy Football)
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All summer long everyone has been buzzing about Carolina Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel. He made great strides in 2018, and he’s on just about everyone’s breakout list. So much so, that for some misguided reason many analysts are hyping him up as the perhaps the best receiver in Carolina, and certainly as the best value of the Panthers wideouts.
Stop. I like Samuel, but this narrative needs to stop. Samuel is not remotely the best wide receiver on the Panthers roster. While you can get him for great value, his upside is just high WR3 territory. In contrast, D.J. Moore has WR1 upside. Getting value is an excellent thing in a startup draft or via trade. But getting a player that has the upside of being a top 12 receiver is something that interests me much more.
Moore’s debut was inauspicious with zero receptions on a total of zero targets in Week 1 last year. He did have one rushing attempt for three yards and a punt return, so at least you knew he was active that week. The following week showed Moore’s flash when he took one of his two targets for a 51-yard receiving touchdown. Yet that big play didn’t convince the Panthers that he was ready for prime time and the first half of the season continued much the same way as the first week. The most targets Moore garnered during the first eight weeks was six, and his snap share never exceeded 70% in the first eight weeks. But in the second half of the season, as the Panthers phased out Devin Funchess, they did begin to utilize him more. As you can see below, the difference between Moore’s first eight weeks and his last eight weeks were stark.
|Targets||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Fantasy Points|
|Games 1-8 average||3.3||2.38||37.13||7.8|
|Games 9-17 average||7||4.5||61.38||12|
Even looking at the above splits doesn’t provide the full picture of how Moore’s usage grew throughout the year. Week 9 was the first time his snap share exceeded 70%. He played on nearly 90% of the offensive snaps that week and his snap share never fell below 82% again for the rest of the season, per Playerprofiler. Through the first eight weeks, his season-high for targets was a measly six targets, which he exceeded in six of the final seven weeks of the year. But wait, it gets better.
In the final five games Moore played with Cam Newton, who was shut down with a shoulder injury, he averaged 14.82 points per game on an average of 7.2 targets and a 20% target share. That pace would have been good enough for the WR20 in average weekly scoring over a full season. He did this as a rookie. I did mention Moore was a rookie, right? That’s right, he was a rookie, and even for a rookie, he was young, playing his entire rookie season as a 21-year-old.
Though his season may have started slowly, Moore still finished the season with 788 yards on 55 receptions, which was the second-most receiving yards for the 2018 rookie wide receiver class. That felt like an impressive rookie season, so I decided to use Pro Football Reference’s Player Season Finder tool to see how good of a debut season that was for a player so young. His 788 receiving yards were the 10th most for a rookie wide receiver 21 years of age or younger since the 2000 season. As a point of reference, Curtis Samuel ranked 34th on this list with 115 receiving yards in his rookie season.
The players above Moore on this list are wide receivers with multiple seasons of WR1 or WR2 production. When the “worst” wide receivers in your cohort include Sammy Watkins (WR16 in 2015), Percy Harvin (WR10 in 2011) and Hakeem Nicks (WR3 in 2010), you are in great company.
Showing off the elite burst and speed that contributed to his nearly perfect prospect profile entering the league, Moore ranked fourth in Receiving Yards after Contact last year. When you account for the fact that he had 33 fewer receptions than league leader George Kittle, 36 less than Saquon Barkley, and 52 fewer than Christian McCaffrey you begin to realize how special of a player Moore is.
Receiving yards after contact (all positions)
George Kittle 338
Christian McCaffrey 300
Saquon Barkley 285
DJ Moore 278
Albert Wilson 273
JuJu Smith-Schuster 250
Travis Kelce 239
Michael Thomas 221
V. McDonald 213
Melvin Gordon 211
James Conner 211
– Jody Smith (@JodySmithNFL) July 16, 2019
As I noted above, Moore was almost the perfect prospect entering the league as the 24th pick overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. His college breakout age of 18.4 fell into the 98th percentile, and his college dominator rating of 53.3% was in the 97th percentile (again per PlayerProfiler.com). Moore entered the league with an elite college production and physical profile. He then produced at an elite level in his rookie season. The value that Curtis Samuel represents is blinding fantasy owners to the WR1 upside that Moore has. Don’t be blinded by Samuel’s value. Instead, realize the value you can get right now buying Moore today before he becomes a WR1 and you have to overpay to get him.