D.J. Moore Can Be a Stud for the Carolina Panthers
First-round wide receivers haven't been a slam dunk choice for NFL franchises in recent years. This year's draft class -- generally viewed as underwhelming from top to bottom -- didn't seem likely to change that entering Round 1.
One player who did emerge as a strong bet to be one of the best wideouts in this class was D.J. Moore.
Moore's numbers as a Maryland Terrapin don't seem like much at first glance, but a deeper dive into Moore's collegiate track record and athleticism makes him a stellar choice for the Carolina Panthers at the 24th pick in the first round.
Moore in College
Moore's reception tallies in three years as a Terrapin read 25, 41, and 80. His yardage totals are 357, 637, and 1,033, respectively. He scored 3, 6, and 8 touchdowns in those seasons, as well.
The 86.1 yards per game ranked him just 20th nationally this season despite a 6.7-catch-per-game average that placed him 9th overall. The disappointing 12.9 yards per catch suggests a lack of big-play ability, yet Moore ran a 4.42-second 40-yard-dash and graded out in the 88th percentile or better in height-adjusted speed score, burst score, and SPARQ-x.
The lack of high-end receiving volume (only three 100-yard games last season) is mitigated when contextualizing it with team context. Maryland topped 220 passing yards just once all season (255 yards).
Moore was responsible for at least 40% of Maryland's receiving yards in 9 of 12 games this season and at least half of their receiving yards in 8 of 12 games. No other receiver in this class accounted for half of his team's receiving in more than 28.6% of his games; Moore did it in 75.0% of his contests.
Moore also avoided any duds and fared well against strong opponents. The yardage alone doesn't tell the full story for Moore, and the 6'0", 210-pound wideout showed promising athleticism at the NFL Combine.
Moore With the Panthers
In 2017, Moore commanded a whopping 43.6% target market share in the Maryland offense, suggesting that he can handle a big workload at the NFL level. Per ProFootballFocus, he had just 12 catches from the slot last season, but he profiles physically as a player who can move around on offense.
The Panthers surely need a go-to option who can do just that.
Via our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Carolina ranked 16th in passing efficiency in 2017 after adjusting for opponent strength. Since Cam Newton entered the NFL in 2011, the Panthers have ranked 13th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 9th, 29th, and 16th in passing offense by our metrics.
As a lead receiver, Devin Funchess commanded 112 targets last season but possessed a Target Success Rate (the percentage of targets that led to positive expected points) of just 48.2%. That ranked him 21st among the 27 wide receivers with at least 100 targets. He did, however, rank fifth in that same group in Reception NEP per catch, suggesting his big-play ability would benefit from fewer targets.
Moore can soak up some of those targets, freeing up the big-bodied Funchess for more efficient targets. With Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith, Funchess, and Moore, the Panthers have a receiving corps that could help Cam Newton and their offense return to the top-10 in passing efficiency for the second time in Newton's NFL career.