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2018 NFL Draft: Film review of new Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore

Let’s take a closer look at the Panthers’ first round draft pick - former Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore.

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers drafted Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL draft. Moore was the first receiver drafted, so there should be high expectations for him to produce in Norv Turner’s offense.

Editor and chief of analytics website numberfire, JJ Zachariason, has a high opinion of Moore based on his model. Moore’s age and production were primary contributors, but there were other factors to why he had him as his number one receiver.

Furthermore, NFL Network analyst and creator of the widely acclaimed “Reception Perception,” Matt Harmon analyzed Moore’s targets at Maryland.

His subpar results against press coverage, low contested catch numbers and average success rates on deep routes will make those looking for the traditional No. 1 receiver sheepish. Yet, his ability to separate on patterns that a bulk of NFL passing games are based on is key. Moore should be a plus-player on routes like the curl and dig, while racking up high reception totals. He can offer something beyond just a replaceable slot receiver skill set.

Harmon’s conclusion is a fair point. He’s not a perfect prospect, but he has a high ceiling due to his age and athleticism.

With all of that said, let’s dive into Moore’s film to get a better idea of his strengths, flaws, and how he fits with the Panthers.

Success against press

Harmon’s analysis concluded that Moore’s work against press landed him in the 40th percentile, which is certainly not ideal. His releases struggle as a result of inconsistent footwork, but I was surprised to see effective hand usage at the top of routes.

This is how Moore compensates for his inconsistent releases against press. He utilizes an effective one arm swipe to turn back to the quarterback and then adjust to the inaccurate throw. (Please spare me the comments about DPI or holding. NFL referees are also inconsistent)

Moore doesn’t sink his hips on the release, which prevents his footwork from creating separation at the line of scrimmage. However, Moore uses similar hand movement to make himself available.

Moore attempts to square up the defensive back to sell his route, but the corner stays patient to read his intentions. Once again though, Moore uses the one arm swipe to turn back and adjust to the football.

This play encapsulates the concerns with Moore winning against press. Yes, a penalty could be called but Moore doesn’t help himself. If he had effective footwork at the line, then he could catch the corner off balance.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about Moore’s ability to separate against press coverage, but with his effective hand usage he has a baseline to win. Moore’s 3 cone was under 7 seconds while his short shuttle was in the 85th percentile. These agility scores didn’t show up on tape, but Moore has the athletic foundation to improve his releases.

Playing through contact

Moore isn’t afraid to play through contact. Outside of Steve Smith, Cam Newton has never had a receiver he could trust when placing the ball in the middle of the field surrounded by defenders.

Moore runs a post, but with the safety attacking his inside shoulder he’s able to protect himself and continue running for yards after the catch. There were questions about Moore’s size and weight prior to the combine, but he proved doubters wrong by weighing in over 200 pounds.

Slot usage and versatility

Moore shouldn’t be confined to one role. His versatility should be welcomed and it seems that Ron Rivera confirms those sentiments. He said Moore can be used as an “F” and in the slot.

Moore starts his route by attacking the middle of the field, but he sells his route to stem it inside. He high points the ball, but Moore also keeps his balance to run to the end zone.

Moore squares up the defensive back, which allows him to work inside or outside. He cuts after a quick hesitation. The throw doesn’t allow Moore to smoothly gain yards after catch. As a result, Moore displays his excellent ability with the ball in his hands to find the end zone.

Moore also displays his versatility by receiving hand offs from the backfield. He played running back in high school, but his vision stands out. This will translate on bubble screens, drags, and reverses once he gets the ball in his hands.

Explosive plays

Moore brings an explosive element to his game too. The double move is one of his signature routes. He sells the route to get the corner to commit underneath, but then he explodes down field.

Moore gets downfield with excellent acceleration and then high points the ball. He has flaws, but when he displays an ability to convert explosive plays that should ease some concerns.

Moore begins his route towards the hash, but catches the corner off balance by cutting back outside. He won’t see many off coverage reps, but he takes advantage of it with his creative route running.

Get the ball in his hands

Moore is a problem when the ball is in his hands. Due to playing running back in high school, this could be a reason why he’s an issue for defenses when he touches the ball.

Moore catches a bubble screen, which isn’t blocked all that well. However, he has a strong lower body to keep his balance through contact . This trait will certainly help Carolina’s pass game as the Panthers ranked 27th in yards after catch in 2017.

Fit with Carolina

As Ron Rivera said, Moore will be an “F” and slot receiver in Norv Turner’s offense. His execution against press coverage needs work, but there is an infrastructure in place with his hand usage. If Carolina has him flanked off the line of scrimmage, then those deficiencies could be hidden in the short term.

He has a bulldog mentality when the ball is in his hands. His vision, balance through contact, and fearlessness give him the potential to gain yards after the catch.

In addition, Moore has the traits and potential to become a downfield threat too. His athleticism obviously stands out, but he also high pointed and adjusted to inaccurate throws.

Finally, it’s not a surprise that Moore was the first receiver drafted based on his athleticism, metrics, and tape. Would I have taken him over an offensive lineman or corner? No, probably not. However, I feel comfortable with his current skill set and ability to reach his potential. Marty Hurney’s past wide receiver selections have been uninspiring. Let’s hope D.J. Moore bucks the trend.