Optimisery: The Case For and Against DJ Moore in Chicago

Jeremy Schwob

In this series, Jeremy Schwob and John Di Bari present the optimistic and pessimistic sides to significant changes in the dynasty landscape. Consider both sides, as the goal is to find somewhere in between.

The old adage that there are two sides to every coin could never be more true than when circumstances change for a player. That is especially true when surprising information is thrust upon us. Psychological difficulty and distress can be encountered when individuals hold rigid views that are strictly one-sided (i.e., split) or alternate drastically from one to the other.

A therapeutic concept called integration is a healthier structure for holding both sides together and tolerating the benefits and flaws simultaneously. Relationally, this could involve being frustrated or angry with them while at the same time being able to maintain that you care about them. Such emotional difficulties can parallel our view of players on dynasty rosters amidst changing circumstances.

The goal of this series is not to have you pick a side or a winner of the argument. Rather, it is to consider both sides and not select one entirely in the absence of the other.

As the first wide receiver selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, expectations were sky-high for DJ Moore entering the NFL. In rookie drafts that year, he was also the clear WR1 and the only receiver in the top nine players in ADP. Needless to say, the expectations of dynasty owners were through the roof.

But now, with five seasons under his belt, the dynasty community isn’t sure what to make of Moore or his career thus far. Granted, during his career, he was catching passes from the likes of Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield, but we’ve seen great receivers flourish with sub-par quarterback play. Now, with a change of scenery, can Moore finally become the fantasy receiver who dynasty owners have been waiting for, or will we continue to see more of the same fringe WR2 production we’ve become accustomed to?

OPTIMISM

While it may not be ideal for a pass catcher to be heading to a run-focused offense, few offensive environments would be worse for a top wideout than Carolina’s last year. The carousel of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, PJ Walker, and five Jacob Eason attempts culminated in a dizzy, nauseating season and the lowest yardage total (888) for DJ Moore since his rookie year (788). Despite this, Moore was able to overcome the environment on his way to his highest touchdown total (7) of his career.

Given that the Bears ran the highest percentage of rushing plays (59.7%) in the entire league in 2022 and had just one fewer total rushing attempt on the season than the league-leading Atlanta Falcons, it seems obvious that this will not be a pass-heavy team in 2023. Those statistics would be incredibly difficult to replicate. Even regression trends toward the NFL average could add an additional 150 total pass attempts and a tremendous boost to Chicago’s receivers. There is reason to believe this is likely to occur as well.

Ultimately, this franchise needs to see what ability Justin Fields has as an NFL passer. Aggressive attempts to add pass-catching weapons like Moore and Chase Claypool suggest a desire to achieve more balance in the offense. With the three-years/$61.88m remaining on Moore’s contract, he should remain the focal point of the offense for the duration of Fields’ rookie deal. It’s possible that with the wide receiver market reset, the Bears must re-work Moore’s deal at some point after this season. Though, that would only indicate a continued commitment to the star receiver beyond 2025.

The options surrounding Moore make it difficult to see who would even challenge him for significant target competition. Despite trading the 32nd overall pick in this year’s NFL draft for Claypool, he has yet to inspire any confidence that that was a savvy move by general manager Ryan Poles. Aside from Claypool, Darnell Mooney appears to have established himself as a professional receiver, though he profiles as a number two option at best.

Other bodies filling out the wide receiver depth chart include speedy fourth-round rookie Tyler Scott, second-year player Velus Jones who is one month younger than Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Dante Pettis. Tight end Cole Kmet presents the most significant competition for targets in the offense and is already familiar with the offense and Fields. However, he is coming off of a 50-reception season and has yet to eclipse 60 receptions in any of his three seasons since being drafted in the second round in 2020. Moore should continue to dominate the target share in the wide receiver room, as he has done throughout his career.

– Schwob

PESSIMISM

Where do I even begin? A year ago, the Chicago Bears had the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, only throwing the ball 377 times. Over a 17-game season, that’s only 22 passes per game. By comparison, the Buccaneers threw the ball 751 times- that’s 374 more pass attempts- nearly double the Bears’ attempts. Last year was the Bears’ first season under head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy with Justin Fields under center. With all of the same key pieces in place, what reason does anyone have to suspect we won’t see more of the same in 2023?

Speaking of Fields, what have we seen from him over the course of his two-year career that would lead you to believe that he can support a top fantasy option at wide receiver? Fields’ per-game average is 13 of 22 for 152 yards and .88 touchdowns. Extrapolated over an entire 17-game season, that’s 221 completions on 374 attempts for 2,584 yards and 15 touchdowns. Unless DJ Moore were to garner an obscene (and unattainable) 50% target share, there is no path to him ever being a WR1. Using last season’s WR12, Christian Kirk‘s stat line of 84(113)-1,108-8 as a measuring stick, Moore would need to receive 28% of the Bears’ receptions, 35% of the Bears’ targets, 42% of the Bears’ receiving yards, and 53% of the Bears’ touchdowns just to be the lowest of low-end WR1s.

Now, onto Moore himself. In his five NFL seasons, he has never been a WR1 and has only been a WR2 three times. As a rookie in 2018, he finished the season as WR36, nearly a WR4. In his sophomore campaign, he bounced back with a WR16 finish, but then, over the last three seasons, he has finished as WR25, WR18, and WR24, respectively. In short, Moore simply has never been a reliable, high-end fantasy option. Unless were are going to witness a mythical sixth-year breakout on one of the league’s least pass-happy offenses, there is no reason to think Moore will ever be more than a fringe WR2/WR3 option in 2023 and beyond.

– Di Bari

Ultimately, you must make decisions in a dynasty but confront that which does not fit your desired perspective. As uncomfortable as it is, it’s essential to work diligently to integrate the alternative into your overall concept to make more informed decisions.

As Moore approaches the prime years for receiver production (i.e., 27 to 29-year-old seasons), much is expected of the reliable top option. He has overcome less-than-ideal circumstances before, reaching 1,150 yards 3 times in his 5-year career thus far. He has been able to do this despite his quarterbacks being Cam Newton (for one season), Kyle Allen, Taylor Heineke, Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, and the aforementioned Mayfield, Darnold, Walker, and Eason. Moore’s floor appears to be somewhat safe based on his talent and role atop the depth chart. We’ll have to see what type of ceiling he has (or can unlock) with Justin Fields.

jeremy schwob
Optimisery: The Case For and Against DJ Moore in Chicago