Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and covering how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, 2018 potential and long term upside.
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D.J. Moore, WR CAR
Week Eight Stats: five catches, 90 yards (five targets, two carries, 39 rushing yards)
I watch a lot of Big Ten football. And it seems like every season there a couple of players – often wide receivers – I become a big fan of. There have been guys like Stefon Diggs and Allen Robinson in the past. Moore was added over the last couple years.
I started noticing Moore in his sophomore year at Maryland, when he hauled in 41 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns. Although he ran a limited route tree including a lot of crosses, hitches, and screens, he was incredibly elusive after the catch, regularly turning a five-yard crossing route into a big play by breaking tackles or simply using his speed to blow past defenders who appeared to have the angle on him.
As a senior he took his game to another level, regularly making highlight reel catches on poor throws from a ragtag team of quarterbacks. His route tree opened up slightly to include more slants, digs and outs as Moore showed strides at the top of his routes. Although the quickness he showed after the catch hadn’t transferred completely to create more separation, he was noticeably better as a senior and it showed in his stat line – as he caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight scores.
Despite still developing as a route runner, Moore’s speed (4.42 second 40-time) and upside had him consistently going in the middle of the first round in rookie drafts over the summer and had him locked in as the top rookie receiver for most dynasty owners.
Since being taken 24th overall by the Panthers, Moore has had a slow start to his rookie season but has been showing signs of life lately.
After catching four passes for 75 yards including a couple impressive grabs to open the pre-season, he was relatively quiet for the next month-and-a-half including the first three weeks of the regular schedule. Then things started picking up for Moore.
Over the last four weeks, he’s has piled up 16 catches for 227 yards on 20 targets while his snaps and targets have progressively improved as well. And in week eight, he set career highs in catches (5), targets (6), and receiving yards (90). His 33-yard catch in the seam against a zone defense when the Panthers were backed up was nice but it was his 28-yard run on a pitch where he nearly fumbled it away before getting the edge that got the attention of fans. Once again, it was his explosiveness and skills in the open field that made an impression on dynasty owners.
Overall, it is encouraging that Moore has carved out a bigger role as the season has progressed and even more promising that the Carolina coaching staff is creating ways to get the ball in his hands. With that said, however, dynasty owners are still waiting for more development as a route runner which I have faith will happen at some point.
A common comparison for Moore coming out of Maryland was fellow Terrapin receiver Stefon Diggs, which is fair because Diggs needed development as a route runner as well. But Diggs made strides immediately in that area as soon as he got to Minnesota. When Moore makes that same leap, he’ll be just as valuable to dynasty owners as his counterpart in Minnesota.
Jordan Thomas, TE HOU
Week Eight Stats: four catches, 29 yards, two touchdown (four targets)
Jordan Thomas entered the league as a relative unknown to most. A late sixth-round pick out of Mississippi State, he was the second tight end selected by the Texans and came with little fanfare. Having totaled just 31 receptions in his career in Starkville, it’s no wonder.
Although anybody that watched him play for the Bulldogs could easily see he was a tight end rather than a wide receiver due to his huge frame (6’-6”- 265 pounds), Thomas spent his senior season on the perimeter because the Bulldogs needed help at wide receiver and had so many useful tight ends. That translated to 22 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns in his final year on campus and earned him an invite to the NFL combine.
In Indianapolis, Thomas showed good enough athleticism for a guy with his physical traits, posting a 4.74 second 40-time while doing 16 bench reps. All that combined with his junior college basketball career intrigued scouts, but never really got the attention of dynasty owners.
That changed on Thursday night against the Dolphins, however, when Thomas hauled in four passes for 29 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Although I never had a chance to take a good look at Thomas in college or the pre-season – where he went without a target – I have seen most of his 13 targets as a professional and, to be honest, he’s looked relatively good.
His eight catches on the year include an impressive corner route against the Patriots on opening weekend where he burned safety Patrick Chung for 27 yards, and a 39-yard catch and run against the Giants in week three where he worked his way open for a scrambling Deshaun Watson before making the grab, rumbling inside the five-yard line and nearly scoring. Thomas’ first touchdown on Thursday came on another nice corner route from the 13-yard line where he snuck behind the linebackers on play action and skied for the high throw at the goal line. On his second score he was actually blocking, but when Watson started scrambling, he slid to the goal line and showed his numbers to his quarterback before gathering the throw.
Somewhat surprisingly, Thomas has shown some things through the first half of his rookie season that should put him on dynasty owners’ radar – particularly in large roster leagues. He’s shown good enough speed to get vertical, good feel for how to use his height and basketball background to go above the rim to make a catch, and has made some heady plays by releasing downfield and coming back to the ball when his quarterback is scrambling. While his eight catches and 120 yards aren’t eye-popping, his performance has been at the very least worth filing in your memory bank.
If I’m in a league with 25 or more roster spots, I’m considering adding Thomas as an end-of-bench stash. With only fellow rookie Jordan Akins on the roster to compete for snaps and targets until Ryan Griffin (who has only caught more than 20 passes once in his six-year career) returns, it isn’t impossible for him to work his way into a role.
Dynasty owners that reserve the end of their bench for young players with good traits and even a sliver of upside should keep Thomas in mind going forward.
Find Dan on Twitter at @dmeylor22
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