New York Jets WR Elijah Moore’s 2022 outlook appears bright
Moore got off to a slow start in 2021. Through his first five games played, he had just 12 catches for 79 yards and zero touchdowns. Was this going to be yet another second-round offensive skill position player to bust, a notorious Jets’ bugaboo?
Then Moore turned it around. From Weeks 7 through 12, Moore had 34 catches for 459 yards and 5 touchdowns. That’s 5.7 catches, 76.5 yards, and 0.83 touchdowns per game. When you extrapolate that six-game stretch over the course of a 17-game season, you get 96 catches for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns.
For reference, Ja’Marr Chase had 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021. This means that if Moore had been able to sustain his pace over a 17-game season, he could have been near All-Pro level.
While it is tempting to believe the hype about Moore at face value, it is worthwhile to look at what the analytics say about his 2021 season.
Analytics outlets Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus differed slightly on Moore’s rookie year. PFF graded Moore as the Jets’ second-best wide receiver with a 71.2 overall grade (behind Braxton Berrios’ 74.0). This is solid production for a rookie on a bad team.
Meanwhile, Football Outsiders had Moore with a DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) of -8.9%, making him their 68th-ranked receiver in the NFL out of 91 qualifiers. That was still the best rating on the Jets.
DVOA does not separate wide receiver production from the quarterback’s, so you’d have to think that rating lies largely on the quarterbacks’ shoulders.
Moore only had three games in which his catch percentage exceeded 50%. That indicates something about the quarterbacks he played with, but Moore still had the lowest catch percentage among the Jets’ top four receivers at 55.8%.
Interestingly, though, Moore had only one drop in 12 games played in 2021. This lends context to Moore’s catch percentage: the quarterbacks throwing to him were just not accurate.
This holds true even compared with their accuracy when targeting other receivers on the team. Corey Davis’s catch percentage was 57.6%, but he had six drops to Moore’s one. Moore does not seem to have issues with his hands.
When you break down Moore’s targets by side of the field and average depth, you find that his average depth of target (ADOT) was fairly long (between 13 and 14 yards) when running an outside route. By contrast, his ADOT was very short (5 yards) when running over the middle. The only part of the field in which throws to Moore had a positive EPA (estimated points added) per play was the left side. 73% of Moore’s catches on the left side went for first downs, but the QBs’ completion percentage on those throws was only 55%.
This indicates that Wilson & Co. liked to take shots to Moore down the left sideline. They were successful at least some of the time. This also may explain why Wilson’s completion percentage is lower to Moore than to Berrios and Jamison Crowder: he made deeper throws to Moore. It’s something to keep in mind when deploying Moore in 2022. He is thought to be a slot guy who may struggle with press coverage, but his primary success was actually on the outside.
In 2021, nearly 56% of Moore’s catches gained first downs, a crucial number out of the slot. This suggests that Moore is a significant security blanket for the Jets.
Some of Moore’s advanced statistics show potential for a breakout this year. His route win rate of 47.8% was ninth-best of any wide receiver in the NFL, per PlayerProfiler. His win rate vs. man coverage of 41.6% was 15th-best. Moore’s juke rate (evaded tackles per reception/rush) was 19th, belying criticisms about his linear running style after the catch.
Moore has some durability concerns. He missed a game earlier in the season with a concussion and the last five with a quad injury. Given his slight frame, there is reason to be worried that he will not be able to stay on the field.
On the plus side, the other weapons that the Jets added around Moore should give him additional space to operate. This will allow his shiftiness to take over and prevent the worst of the hits.
Elijah Moore’s rookie season flashed enough potential to warrant the hype. All expectations need to be tempered, though, with the realization that the season hinges on a 180-degree turnaround from Zach Wilson. The most important thing is to improve that catch percentage as communication grows between Wilson and Moore.