DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley were destined to draw comparisons from the moment they were selected with back-to-back first round picks by the division rival Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. Moore has had a noticeably slow start, if you look at box scores, whereas Ridley has lit the league on fire. The easy observation is that the Panthers missed out on a franchise player and are stuck seeing what they can get out of Moore. I wouldn’t be so quick to make that judgment.
The Panthers have, for what feels like the first time, a deep, veteran group of receivers. Moore has only been on the field for a third of the offense’s snaps and even that percentage is probably artificially inflated from the Panthers’ original plans due to the lengthy injuries to Damiere Byrd and Curtis Samuel. He trails Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright, Ian Thomas, and Chris Manhertz in snaps on an offense that doesn’t prioritize throwing to wide receivers. Former Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad pointed out as much yesterday.
Meanwhile, Ridley has barely trailed the Falcons top running back in snaps. His opportunities have been more frequent. They also have not been equal. Moore doesn’t line up across the field from Julio Jones. The Panthers don’t have any threat against an opponent’s secondary that is going to make his transition easier, let alone a top three receiver. I’d be willing to bet that Moore could have matched Ridley’s 264 yards and six touchdowns through his first four games if he were on the Falcons.
Head coach Ron Rivera has also long made a lot of noise about the Panthers offense not being a quick study for rookie wide receivers. This was his chorus during the developments of Kelvin Benjamin, Funchess, and Samuel.
Whether or not that is a good or a bad thing is irrelevant to the argument that Moore is a disappointment. He hasn’t had the chance to be. Right now he is exactly where we thought he would be this season. Every week a Panthers coach is talking about finding ways to get him on the field more instead of making excuses for his health or development. This isn’t the team that drafted Benjamin and Moore hasn’t had the opportunity to make us suspicious of his talent.
There is a reason why Ridley has four times the target volume that Moore has. His opportunities have come while his 1-3 team has been chasing points all season. That Ridley has taken advantage of them speaks well for him. It doesn’t say anything about Moore.