NY Jets rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore can be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, and the best comparison for him remains Antonio Brown.
The term “wide receiver one” sparks a certain mental image. Some may picture the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Julio Jones. Others may picture the 6-foot-4, 229-pound DK Metcalf.
Regardless of the specific player envisioned, the point is this: The concept of a true “wide receiver one” generally makes us think of some height/weight/speed freak who can do everything at a high level.
Just a few short years ago, though, it wasn’t even widely disputed that the best wide receiver in the NFL was a guy who doesn’t exactly fit that physical description.
That player was Antonio Brown.
During his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown was considered to be arguably one of the top NFL receivers of the 2010s. From 2011-2018, he made first-team All-Pro on four occasions, made seven Pro Bowls and averaged 1,380 receiving yards per season.
Brown, who stands at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds., is walking proof that a receiver doesn’t necessarily need to be built like a Metcalf to find incredible success in the NFL.
This is outstanding news for New York Jets rookie receiver Elijah Moore, who isn’t at all built like his former Ole Miss teammate. Instead, his body type and many explosive attributes fit the many Brown buckets.
Moore stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 185 pounds—nearly identical to Brown. Also like Brown, Moore is extremely quick, elusive after the catch, a superb route-runner. And although he’s a tad undersized, is capable of winning contested catches at a high clip.
Moore has a real shot at being the type of player for the Jets that Brown was for the Steelers.
Moore was picked by the Jets with the second pick of the second round. Throughout the pre-draft process, he was widely expected to be taken in the first round, so Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh made sure not to hesitate when given the chance to pounce on him. There weren’t many who expected the Jets to select a receiver that early in the draft. After all, the Jets receiver room has plenty of talent, including Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Keelan Cole and Jamison Crowder.
It takes a special kind of confidence in a player to select him that early with glaring team weaknesses elsewhere and no third-round pick in the holster.
To translate: The Jets think Elijah Moore is really good. Jets X-Factor’s Robby Sabo is also on that train after witnessing the rookie’s antics this past spring.
If you combine those endorsements with Moore’s talent, it’s hard to avoid drooling over Antonio Brown highlights with visions of what Moore could become.
It’s hard to place comparisons like this on young players because the expectations just aren’t fair. So to be clear, this isn’t to say Moore will be every bit as good as Brown. Rather, the two pass-catching weapons possess eerily similar playing styles to go with their near-identical measurables.
It’s because of this that Moore should be viewed as a rookie with massive potential. There are few holes in his game other than his size, but Brown has already shown that being a 5-foot-10 receiver with his playstyle puts him at no disadvantage.
Here’s the question: Just how similar are they to one another?
Even inexperienced eyes in the game of football can easily notice one apparent similarity between the two: quickness and speed. A great portion of Brown’s top career plays feature him running away from defenses, and Moore most certainly boasts that home-run ability as well.
In this clip, we see the quarterback get the ball out quickly to Moore who started from the slot. It’s a basic play, but Moore’s speed is on full display.
As the last defender tries to stop him from reaching the end zone, it’s important to notice that the defender should have had the advantage, as he had the angle on Moore to cut him off short of the goal line. However, Moore accelerates so quickly that he catches the defender off guard, not leaving him enough time to get there and make the tackle.
But there have been plenty of speedy wideouts in the NFL and rarely have any of them been as good as Brown. It takes more than just quickness to be a true No. 1 receiver in the National Football League.
Another on-field ability Moore shares in common with Brown is his elusiveness after the catch. Sure, an important role of a wide receiver is making possession catches for huge gains. But any football player or fan alike knows that big runs after the catch can just as effectively create excitement and momentum for an offense.
In all of college football last season, few were better at this than Moore, who had 18 forced missed tackles (sixth-most), per PFF.
This clip shows Moore absolutely embarrassing the Arkansas defense. He’s completely surrounded upon making the catch and somehow manages to scamper 39 yards after the catch for the touchdown. It’s easy to see how incredibly sharp his cuts are to go along with his elite vision in the open field. It will be electrifying to watch the plays Mike LaFleur draws up to get Moore the ball in space.
Moving on, let’s look at the best wide receiver in the NFL each of the last few seasons. Last year, this was arguably Davante Adams. The year before that, Michael Thomas or DeAndre Hopkins, and the few years before that, Antonio Brown. All of these players have one crucial elite skill in common: route-running.
It is the most important skill for a wide receiver to have. Many other factors play into how good a player is, but being an excellent route-runner provides a certain floor. It allows the receiver the ability to shake their defender and get separation.
“I thought the route-running reminded me of Antonio Brown,” said NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein while giving his thoughts on Moore. “You’ve got a smaller guy who’s able to just snap you off in a phone booth and he’s getting separation. I thought it was amazing watching how polished his route-running is … I don’t see a lot of weaknesses.”
In this clip, we see Moore sell a sluggo route to perfection. The purpose of this route is to fool the defender into thinking it’s a slant. The idea is to get them to bite hard on that, then cut back upfield into a go route. Moore makes sure at the start of his route that he runs far enough inside that the defender turns his shoulders inward. It’s then that Moore suddenly cuts back upfield and to the outside, so that the defender is left with too much momentum in the wrong direction to recover, even with the ball being a tad under-thrown.
Something that usually gets held against smaller wide receivers is the disadvantage they naturally have in contested catch situations. Due to their size, it’s reasonable to conclude that they can easily be out bodied at the catch point or hit hard over the middle of the field to force a drop.
But for Antonio Brown, this was never an issue. In fact, in 2018, Brown actually had the second-most contested catches in the entire NFL, behind only the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mike Evans. That year, Brown hauled in an impressive 51.2 percent of his targets that were deemed contested.
Elijah Moore is similarly unfazed by the size disadvantage. He had the fifth most contested catches in college football last season with 11, per PFF. He’s also fearless over the middle of the field, rarely dropping passes from big hits at the catch point — yet another similarity to Brown.
This clip shows Moore reeling in a catch just before being rocked by an Alabama defender. Moore actually won this play much more decisively than it would appear. Had the quarterback thrown the pass over Moore’s outside shoulder, this would have been a touchdown. However, he launches it over his inside shoulder, forcing Moore to drift toward the safety, who now has a chance to make a play on the ball.
But part of what makes Moore so special is his fearlessness over the middle of the field. Even after taking a massive hit from the safety, he still manages to hold onto the ball and make the completion for a huge gain. Nothing is more disheartening for a safety.
On virtually any scouting report out there on Elijah Moore, one of the only weaknesses listed for him is his size. Antonio Brown proves that if that’s the case, Moore really does have a shot at being the true “wide receiver one” that the Jets have needed since Brandon Marshall.
This guy is going to be special.