After an impressive rookie season, the New York Jets should expect a breakout year from Elijah Moore
When the New York Jets drafted Elijah Moore with the 34th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, every Jets fan collectively held their breath. For years, the Jets have had a curse when it came to drafting wide receivers, especially in the second round.
There hasn’t been a “successful” wide receiver drafted by the team since Quincy Enunwa. And even he had his career cut drastically short via injuries.
In fact, the Jets haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver since Santana Moss in 2001. Moss wasn’t a Pro Bowl player until 2005. That was when he was playing for Washington, too, and not the Jets. Whether you’re a fan of the Jets or not, that stat is depressing.
Fortunately for the New York Jets – and their fans – Elijah Moore has a chance to break the curse.
While Moore’s rookie season was plagued with injuries and an inept offense, he was able to find success when on the field. Moore may have only finished the season with 538 receiving yards, but he was more impressive than that number suggests.
Per Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, at the midway point of 2021, Moore had the 2nd-highest route-running success rate against man coverage among rookie wide receivers, only behind Baltimore’s Rashod Bateman. Against zone coverage, Moore had the 3rd-highest success rate among rookies only behind Bateman and Philly’s DeVonta Smith.
Doing what he did during his time at Ole Miss, Moore was consistently beating defenders at the point of attack. The film shows much of the same. By the end of the season, Moore would compile some incredible advanced statistics.
Referring back to Harmon’s Reception Perception, Moore found himself in the top 30% all-time against man, zone, and press coverage. He did all of this as a rookie.
Moore often faced tight coverage and succeeded regardless. According to Next Gen Stats, Moore was given the 33rd-lowest amount of cushion yards among 98 qualified WRs at 5.9 yards. Despite that, he tied for the 17th-highest average separation among that same group of WRs at 3.4 yards. His differential between those two rankings placed first among rookies; which checks out with his route-run win rate being 9th-best in the league.
Despite only playing in 65% of the Jets’ offensive snaps in the games he played in, Moore would compile a target share of 20.6%, which placed him 29th among wide receivers.
In short time, Moore has found himself in elite company at the wide receiver position. He ranked 13th among wide receivers with a targets-per-route rate of 26.0%. That placed just behind Brandin Cooks (26.5%), Deebo Samuel (26.9%), and Justin Jefferson (27.6%).
Given that Moore had a target quality rate of 4.75 – ranking 75th among WRs – his rookie year production is phenomenal. Target quality rate incorporates high-quality receptions and catchable targets; meaning Moore was able to succeed regardless of getting the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality looks for a WR. If the quarterback play improves even a little, the sky is the limit for Moore in 2022.
While it’s highly believed that Year 3 is when wide receivers “break out”, it’s Year 2 that shows a positive trend in terms of target market share and raw target share.
If Elijah Moore can stay healthy, I expect him to follow in that trend. Jets fans should expect a breakout season for the second-year player in 2022.