It Pays to Get (DJ) Moore

Shane Manila

“Buy low, sell high” is one of the ten fantasy commandments in dynasty football. I don’t disagree with it as a tenet, and I often abide by it. But some players are worth buying high. In fact, some players are worth knowingly overpaying to acquire. Players such as George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, and Patrick Mahomes are well worth the cost. Another such player is Carolina Panther wide receiver DJ Moore.

When I say you will need to pay the full cost to acquire Moore, I need you to realize I’m not being hyperbolic. Based on Moore’s average positional ADP versus his points-per-game rank, there is no discount to be had when acquiring him in startup drafts. He had an ADP of 16.5 in 2019 and then went out and finished as the WR16. With an average DLF rank of 17.1, Moore’s value, cost, and production were all equally aligned in 2019.

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Moore’s current positional ADP and average DLF ranking of ten leaves little room for growth and he’ll need to have an outstanding 2020 to match the lofty expectations being placed on him. Trading for Moore isn’t going to be cheap either. Using DLF’s Dynasty Trade Finder app to take a look at some recent trades involving Moore indicates that his cost is high in existing leagues. In order to trade for him, one owner parted with the 1.03 (in a superflex league), while another trade saw him acquired for Amari Cooper and Emmanuel Sanders. Some owners might blush at the acquisition cost, but I’m not one of them.

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The Story So Far

Coming out of Maryland, Moore was a near-perfect prospect. His 40 yard-dash, speed score, vertical and broad jumps, and short-shuttle all pointed to an athlete with elite speed, explosion, and agility, capable of competing in the NFL.

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His college production further pointed to a player who could be elite in the NFL, breaking out at the age of 18.4 and producing at the 97th percentile during his time at Maryland. Being selected in the first round – 24th overall – in the 2018 NFL Draft was the final piece to the puzzle for a nearly perfect prospect.

Moore’s rookie season started inauspiciously with him scoring 7.7 PPR points or fewer in six of his first nine games. The final seven games of the season saw his targets increase significantly which, not surprisingly, led to an increase in receptions, receiving yards, and PPR scoring. After averaging 7.43 points per game in the first nine contests he averaged 12.59 over the final seven games and finished second among rookie wide receivers with 788 receiving yards.

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The 2019 season saw Moore take strides towards fulfilling the promise that a player with his profile holds. His PPR scoring increased from 9.8 points per game during his rookie year to 15.4 in his second season. He finished as the WR14 for the full year (through week 17), but was actually the WR9 during the fantasy regular season scoring at 16.4 points per game clip. In a game that longs for consistency, Moore gave you WR2 or better scoring 66.7% of the time last year (ten of the 15 games) including three top WR1 weeks.

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Moore scored at least 12.1 fantasy points in 12 of 15 games last year providing an excellent floor, and between 19.2 and 31.4 points on four occasions providing you the spike weeks you look for as well. Through the first two seasons of his career Moore’s 1,963 receiving yards ranks as the 34th most in the history of the NFL. When you compare Moore against his players in the same age cohort (played their entire rookie season at the age of 21 and entire second season at the age of 22) he is even more impressive. Per Pro Football Reference among players in his age cohort, Moore ranks ninth all-time in receiving yards through his first two seasons.

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Every one of the players listed above and below Moore on this list produced at least one elite fantasy season, if not multiple seasons of high-end production. It should also be noted that every player ahead of him on the list above, excluding DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, saw many more targets than Moore did through their first two seasons.

Reason for optimism

Even in a vacuum what Moore has achieved so far is impressive. When you add the context of how he’s achieved what he has achieved, it becomes a near miracle. In 2018, his catchable target rate ranked 40th at the wide receiver position. If you thought that was bad, you hadn’t seen anything yet. Moore was targeted by an injured Cam Newton, the immortal Kyle Allen (remember when he was going to be the Panthers franchise QB? Good times), and an overwhelmed rookie in Will Grier. His catchable target rate of 73.3% ranked 74th at the wide receiver position. Though he was targeted tenth most among wide receivers with 135, just 99 of those targets were deemed catchable.

Moore’s ability to produce while tied to porous QB play shouldn’t be understated. Just as a point of reference, Moore averaged 78.33 receiving yards per game last year, while JuJu Smith-Schuster – who was also tied to poor quarterback play – averaged 46 yards per game.

Moore’s ability to be productive in multiple facets of the wide receiver game is another reason for optimism for his future production since it’s unlikely he would see negative regression across the board in the future. He’s shown himself to be a receiver capable of producing his own while also being a viable deep threat option. Moore’s 384 yards after the catch ranked 11th at the wide receiver position last year, while his 1,499 air yards ranked 12th – per The biggest deficiency in his game so far has been his anemic touchdown scoring. He’s scored on a paltry 3.7% of his 161 career touches, and his four receiving touchdowns ranked 43rd last season, which does present an area for growth in his fantasy production.

I may not be the biggest Teddy Bridgewater supporter, but it’s impossible to ignore that he’s a huge upgrade over Kyle Allen. Bridgewater sports a career completion percentage of 65.2% compared to Allen’s 62%. While everyone was focused on Jameis Winston’s 30/30 chase in 2019, not enough people paid attention to Allen’s pursuit of 15/15 (in just 12 starts). Allen threw for 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season in his best attempt at impersonating Winston. It’s not exactly a recipe for wide receiver success when the quarterback is throwing interceptions like it’s their job while also fumbling 13 times (fourth-most), and losing seven of those fumbles (third-most).

There has been some consternation that Bridgewater doesn’t throw deep as much as Kyle Allen, which is true, but this largely ignores the fact that Allen was atrocious on deep-ball attempts. Allen did toss up a shade over four deep ball attempts per game, but he connected on only 23.2% of those passes compared to Bridgewater’s 46.7 completion percentage on deep-ball attempts. Bridgewater is a more accurate passer to all levels of the field and won’t turn the ball over, which can only be a good thing for Moore.

Despite last off-season’s debate that Curtis Samuel was somehow a threat to DJ Moore in any shape, form, or fashion, the 2019 season should have dispelled any of those foolish notions. Moore commanded a 24% target share, while Samuel saw a perfectly okay for a beta, 17.7% target share. Moore is the alpha receiver for the Panthers and Bridgewater showed in his starts last year for New Orleans he knows how to treat an alpha. Perhaps out of fear for his own safety (Michael Thomas is kind of scary), Bridgewater made sure Thomas saw his customary 33% target share in the games he quarterbacked. Having to share the field with Christian McCaffrey ensures that Moore will never see a 33% target share but there’s no reason he can’t maintain his target share from 2019. Robby Anderson has also joined the roster but it’s my contention that he’s a threat to Samuel and not to Moore’s targets.

Buy baby Buy

DJ Moore is the exact type of player who you overpay for. He was an elite college prospect, with elite physical tools. He’s produced at historic levels in his first two seasons in the NFL and just turned 23 last month. Poor quarterback play couldn’t stop him from producing as a high-end WR2 in 2019, so just imagine what he’ll be able to with even adequate quarterback play in the future.

If I can acquire Moore for Amari Cooper and another small piece, that’s a smash accept for me. If I need to add a second-round rookie pick to Cooper, AJ Brown, Courtland Sutton I’ll do it. Players like Moore are unique and have the ability to help you win a fantasy title, and I know I’ll pay whatever the cost to get myself a championship.

shane manila