Odell Beckham Jr. is a good fit to replace Elijah Moore in the New York Jets’ offense, one metric says
The past week featured a tidal wave of wide receiver-related news for the New York Jets. Elijah Moore was traded to Cleveland, Mecole Hardman signed with New York on a one-year deal, and rumors of Odell Beckham Jr. becoming a Jet continued heating up.
With a gaping hole left where Moore once stood and Beckham looking increasingly likely to fill it, I was curious to find out whether Beckham would be a good fit to replace Moore in the Jets’ offense.
I used route data from NFL Next Gen Stats to see if Beckham is an ideal match to take over the responsibilities Moore was handling in the Jets’ offense. Is Beckham the Jets’ best option to replace Moore? Or is there someone better out there?
To my surprise, I found that Beckham truly might be the best available fit to fill Moore’s shoes.
Finding the wide receivers who were used most similarly to Elijah Moore
Allow me to explain my methodology in this study.
NGS tracks nine different primary route types for wide receivers: go’s, hitches, outs, crossers, in’s, posts, corners, slants, and screens. Every time a wide receiver runs a route (regardless of whether he is targeted), NGS categorizes the route into one of those nine categories.
To get an idea of what each wide receiver’s role is, we can look at how often they were asked to run each route type. This can be done by analyzing the percentage of a player’s total passing plays in which they ran each route type.
I analyzed the route-running frequencies of 138 qualified wide receivers from the 2022 season (minimum 100 routes run) plus Beckham’s 2021 season with the Browns and Rams. I sorted all 139 players according to how closely their route-running frequencies matched Moore’s.
Out of 139 qualifiers, Beckham finished with the 15th-closest route distribution to Moore’s, putting him at the 90th percentile. More importantly, that placed Beckham first among players who are currently free agents.
Here are the top 15 closest wide receivers to Moore’s usage in 2022. They are sorted by “ELIJAH”, an index that shows the average difference in percentage points between their route-running frequencies and Moore’s. For instance, there was an average margin of 1.72% between Beckham and Moore across the nine route types, which ranked 15th-lowest among 139 qualifiers.
Like Moore, Beckham’s role centered heavily around go routes and hitch routes. Beckham also mirrored Moore’s low rates of post, corner, and slant routes. Finally, their rates of crossing routes and in routes were very similar. The main difference was that Moore ran significantly more out routes than Beckham, but other than that, their route-running responsibilities were extremely similar.
Obviously, Moore’s role could have changed significantly if he stayed with the Jets in 2023, considering there is a new offensive coordinator in place. The Jets aren’t necessarily looking for an exact match of Moore’s 2022 role.
Still, I think this data serves as an interesting guide to help us find the best players to replace Moore in the starting lineup. While the Jets did add Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman, both players have performed their best in complementary roles where they can focus on the small handful of things they do best. Next to Garrett Wilson in the starting lineup, New York needs an all-around WR2 who can handle a wide array of route types. That’s who Moore was (despite the lackluster production) – and it appears Beckham is a fantastic match to fill that same role.
Courtland Sutton, who ranked first in similarity to Moore, is an interesting name to note. There have been trade rumors surrounding Sutton recently as the Broncos seek to unload excess salary and add draft picks. Perhaps the Jets could seek a Sutton trade – although the Broncos’ asking price seems to be high. With the Jets still haggling over compensation for Aaron Rodgers, a high-priced trade for Sutton seems unlikely.
Looking purely at free agents – who can be acquired without precious draft compensation – Beckham takes the cake. This could be part of why the Jets are seemingly interested in him.
The free agents who rank closest to Beckham are nowhere near as talented. After Beckham, the highest-ranked free agents are Byron Pringle (#21), Dante Pettis (#27), and Michael Bandy (#32).
Yeah, even a Beckham skeptic like myself will gladly sign up for OBJ any day of the week over those guys.
Another interesting tidbit I found from this study was this: Beckham not only closely compared to Moore, but to multiple receivers who played under now-Jets coaches, too.
Of the top 25 wide receivers who compared most similarly to Moore, three of them played for Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett (Courtland Sutton, Brandon Johnson, Jerry Jeudy) and two played for Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing (Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Robert Woods).
Hackett is now the Jets’ offensive coordinator while Downing is the Jets’ passing game coordinator. The high-ranking presence of Broncos and Titans receivers on the list suggests that a route-running distribution akin to Moore’s and Beckham’s could be exactly what the Jets will be looking for in their top receivers this year. This further adds to the idea that Beckham is an ideal scheme fit for the Jets.
Beckham could be exactly what the Jets are looking for
While these numbers do not tell the entire story, I figured they were worth sharing. As we discussed earlier, the Jets aren’t necessarily looking for an Elijah Moore clone, but I do think it is interesting that Beckham already has experience handling a similar role to the one Moore played last season – at least in terms of his route distribution.
Garrett Wilson is returning while Mecole Hardman and Allen Lazard are coming in with skill sets that are quite different from Moore’s. So, with Moore gone, I don’t think it’s completely far-fetched to say the Jets are looking for someone who is a pretty close match to the type of receiver Moore is, and it seems like OBJ is the best match of any free agent.
Even body-type-wise, Moore and Beckham are similar. They are both sub-six-foot, sub-200-pound receivers who rely on stellar athleticism and blazing speed (although it remains to be seen how much of that speed Beckham has left in the tank).
The main difference between Moore and Beckham is where they line up. Beckham has leaned heavily to the outside during his career while Moore has alternated between both roles, with the slot tending to serve him better. In 2022, Moore struggled in an outside-heavy role to begin the year and then started to lean heavily toward the slot after he returned from his one-week benching.
However, I think Beckham would project well to a slot role if that’s where the Jets want him to play. He flashed tremendous efficiency in the slot as a member of the Rams in 2021.
Here is a comparison of Beckham’s production in the slot versus on the outside during his 2021 season in Los Angeles (including playoffs):
- Slot: 2.48 yards per route run, 11.2 yards per target, 146.9 passer rating when targeted — 77 routes, 12 catches, 17 targets, 191 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT when targeted
- Outside: 1.37 yards per route run, 7.6 yards per target, 98.2 passer rating when targeted — 294 routes, 36 catches, 53 targets, 402 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT when targeted
Beckham carries significant concerns, but the potential and fit are there
There is no doubt that adding Beckham would carry a ton of risks for the Jets. His age, injury history, and gradual production decline are worrisome signs. Personally, I thought New York would have been better off keeping Moore and avoiding Beckham, and I stand by that. I am a staunch believer in Moore’s untapped potential and I find it difficult to trust Beckham considering his many red flags.
With all of that being said, I do understand the appeal of adding Beckham, especially after unearthing the numbers I shared with you today. The ceiling he brings is immensely captivating, and on top of that, it appears he is an excellent fit for what the Jets might be looking for.
Beckham would be the ultimate boom-or-bust signing for the Jets.
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