Elijah Moore, NY Jets, Stats, 2021, Rookie
Elijah Moore, New York Jets, Getty Images

Elijah Moore did something special in his rookie season

New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore impressed in his rookie campaign. After a slow start, Moore flashed the dominance he showed in college. Unfortunately, a quad injury ended his season in Week 13. Despite the injury, Moore showed enough over his final six games for fans to be excited to see him back on the field in 2022.

Elijah Moore, Weeks 8-13, 2022, Stats, NY Jets
Elijah Moore, New York Jets, Getty Images

As impressive as Moore’s standard statistics were, the numbers of his rookie campaign look even better when you dig deeper. Moore’s profile compares extremely well to some of the top wide receivers of the last decade.

Using three key statistics; yards per route run, yards per reception, and targets per game; I compared Moore to rookie wide receivers since 2008 and discovered his rookie season put him in elite company.

Criteria

I selected these three statistics because they represent how impactful a player was when on the field. They also balance each criterion to prevent players that weren’t on the field often or force-fed screens from qualifying. Each statistic ensures that the player was heavily featured in the offense and extremely effective when given the opportunity.

Targets per Game

A high target rate as a rookie indicates that despite still learning the playbook, the player had the talent to be consistently targeted. Still, there are several manufactured touches through screens so this alone isn’t indicative of their ability.

Moore had 77 targets in 11 games, giving him 7.0 targets per game.

Yards per Reception

Yards per reception shows explosiveness. If a player thrives in this category, it tells us that when they get the ball, it’s a big play. This prevents players that are consistently targeted on quick slants or screens from qualifying.

With 538 yards on 43 receptions, Moore averaged 12.5 yards per reception.

Yards per Route Run

Yards per route run is the best way to summarize a receiver’s effectiveness on the field since it accounts for the number of opportunities a player was given. Players who thrived with limited opportunities will compare favorably to players that had a larger volume but weren’t as impactful on a per-play basis.

Moore collected 538 yards over 308 routes run, resulting in an average of 1.75 yards per route run.

Moore is one of 14 wide receivers to achieve this feat

When I started this study, I was expecting Moore to compare well, but I did not expect Moore’s accomplishments to be that unique. When I finished, I was blown away by how few have achieved these feats and how successful their careers have been.

Among all rookie wide receivers with at least 30 targets since 2008, only fourteen have had at least 1.75 yards per route run, 12.5 yards per reception, and 6.5 targets per game:

  • DeSean Jackson
  • A.J. Green
  • Julio Jones
  • Keenan Allen
  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Mike Evans
  • Kelvin Benjamin
  • Amari Cooper
  • Terry McLaurin
  • Tee Higgins
  • CeeDee Lamb
  • Justin Jefferson
  • Ja’Marr Chase
  • Elijah Moore
Elijah-Moore-New-York-Jets-Stats-Rookie-Card-Jersey-2021
Graphic by Twitter/@nyjetscommenter

It’s safe to say this is some elite company. Excluding Chase and Moore, the other twelve players have accumulated over 80,000 yards and 485 touchdowns in approximately 80 seasons, or 1,001 games played. The four players from 2008-2013 are likely all going to end up in the Hall of Fame.

What is most impressive about this list is that Kelvin Benjamin is the only outlier. Every other receiver has been a top receiver over the last decade or is a rising star.

The only concern is that many of these players have struggled with injuries. On average, the twelve other players have only played 12.5 games per season. This figure is elevated by season-ending injuries and some injury-prone players (Beckham and Allen), but is still not an ideal sign given Moore’s and the Jets’ struggles with injuries.

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A broader analysis of the last three drafts

The NFL has been rapidly changing and it is partially driven by the talent at wide receiver. This year alone, eight wide receivers received contracts exceeding $20 million per year. The last three drafts have helped facilitate that change as several young wide receivers have emerged with the potential to become the best.

I decided to broaden my criteria and look at the last three drafts to see how indicative these statistics truly are of player success. As with my last analysis, the results are encouraging for Moore.

I lowered the criteria to 1.60 yards per route run, 11.0 yards per reception, and 5.0 targets per game. Looking at rookies from 2019-21, this now includes:

  • Elijah Moore
  • Ja’Marr Chase
  • DeVonta Smith
  • Justin Jefferson
  • Chase Claypool
  • Tee Higgins
  • CeeDee Lamb
  • Brandon Aiyuk
  • Jerry Jeudy
  • A.J. Brown
  • Hunter Renfrow
  • Terry McLaurin
  • Deebo Samuel
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Preston Williams
  • Diontae Johnson

While not as impressive as the previous list, this still features almost every top wide receiver selected since 2019. It’s encouraging that even with broader criteria, many of the players on this list are still among the best in the NFL.

What does this mean?

Elijah Moore accomplished something special in his first year in the NFL. He flashed the ability to become one of the best wide receivers in the league.

Moore’s athletic profile and demeanor give you faith that he can truly grow into that player. Few players have the speed, quickness, agility, intelligence, and hands of Moore. He hasn’t rested on his gifts, however, as he has been traveling around the country throughout the offseason to train with his teammates.

Even if Moore doesn’t reach the heights of players like Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr., the floor of Tee Higgins or Hunter Renfrow is still more than Jets fans have had in years.

Heading into 2022, I expect Moore to be the Jets’ top target. Corey Davis is coming off a down year and injury while Garrett Wilson hasn’t played a single snap yet.

Several of the players on the lists above didn’t break 1,000 yards until their second season. I expect Moore to join that group.

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BigJetsFan1
BigJetsFan1
4 months ago

What an article! I love the statistical proof. We stole him in the second round. We stole Breece in the second round. I have often seen losing teams benefit from losing via success in the draft in the NFL and the NBA ala the Golden State Warriors. The good thing about this is that rookies get to play. They come back better. Jets will win 8 games this year.