I recently covered the five WRs expected to go Round 1. Below are the four WRs who appear most likely to also hear their names called before the end of Day 2.
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
- Tyler Boyd
- Jarvis Landry
- Jamison Crowder
- Mario Manningham
Age. Moore doesn’t turn 21 until two days before the NFL draft.
Athleticism. Elijah Moore has been overshadowed by Rondale Moore in discussions of measurables, but both Moores are exceptional athletes. Elijah ran a 4.35 40 with a 36-inch vertical and a 6.67 3 cone at his pro day.
So while Moore is almost certain to make his NFL living in the slot, his timed speed indicates what some film evaluators already believed: Moore can have a limited role on the outside as well. His ability to threaten deep from multiple alignments is helping drive the NFL buzz that has him going 20th in Evan Silva’s Mock Draft 2.0.
Underclassman Breakout. Moore broke out as a true sophomore in 2019 with 37% of Ole Miss’ receiving yards and 55% of their receiving TDs. This was on a large sample of 12 games, but with raw stats of only 850 yards and six TDs. Moore then followed up with an eight-game 2020 where he went for 1,193 yards and eight TDs for a 37% Dominator rating. It doesn’t matter if you prefer your breakouts early or accompanied by strong raw stats — Moore has you covered either way.
Career Market Share of Yards. Moore didn’t do much as a freshman, but his sophomore and junior seasons helped him produce a career yardage share of 29%. This is an excellent mark for a three-year WR and is higher than every three-year WR in 2020’s class.
YPRR. Moore was incredible in YPRR in his final season, producing a truly elite 3.85 YPRR that was 2.39 better than his teammates. He was even more impressive than Ja’Marr Chase and Rashod Bateman by this measure.
Size. Moore is 5′ 9.5″ and 178 lbs. He has sufficient speed to succeed at the NFL at his weight, but he’ll still be limited in the types of things he can do. On the bright side, his extremely young age does present the possibility that he’ll bulk up a bit in the NFL.
One thing I’ve come to believe about NFL prospects is that we’re better at identifying player type than how successful a prospect will be in their role at the next level. This is why predictive stats are so important. They can help point to a ceiling that might otherwise get lost in an underwhelming archetype.
Elijah Moore is a boring archetype. He’s going to play primarily (and perhaps entirely) out of the slot. And his comps are a who’s who of three condom plays. But Moore was incredible at Ole Miss in all the predictive metrics that I trust. He’s not going to be the most fun rookie pick you make, but he may end up being the best.
Prospect Grade: Mid First-Round Rookie Pick
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
- Corey Coleman
- Donnie Avery
- Devin Smith
- Braxton Miller
- D.J. Chark
Elite Athleticism. Kadarius Toney is a tremendous athlete. At 5′ 11.5″, 193 lbs, Toney ran a 4.38 40, posted a 39.5″ vertical, a ridiculous 136″ broad jump and turned in a 6.88 3 cone. As a pure athlete, he looks a lot like Ja’Marr Chase.
Rushing Ability. Toney’s athleticism shone through in the running game, where he racked up 580 yards and two TDs with an 8.8 YPC average in his Florida career.
Elusiveness. PFF charted Toney with seven missed tackles forced on just 19 rushing attempts in 2020. He also forced 20 missed tackles on his 70 receptions. He’s not just a workout warrior.
Underclassman Yards per Route Run. Toney didn’t play a ton in his first three college seasons, and in any individual underclassman season his YPRR samples are small. But in total he had an impressive YPRR sample, combining for a solid 2.46 YPRR in 2017-2019. He was also over a full yard per route better than his teammates.
Toney’s production as an underclassman was extremely underwhelming. But he wasn’t able to control how many routes he ran. When he was given the opportunity, he shined.
Four-Year Player. Toney is a four-year college player, the NFL results for which have been significantly worse than for early declare WRs. If he had entered the draft last season, I don’t imagine he would have fared very well given his production to that point.
Never Broke Out. In Toney’s peak college season, he had a 23% receiving yardage share and 22% of Florida’s receiving TDs. This is well short of the 30% threshold we’re looking for, which is particularly disappointing since Toney fell short in a year when we generally prefer prospects to already be playing in the NFL.
Career Market Share of Yards. Toney was extremely unproductive as an underclassman, peaking at just an 11% yardage share. He finished his college career with just a 15% career MSY. This is well below what we’re looking for from a four-year WR. (It’s actually well below what I look for from three-year WRs).
In part, this lack of production is due to Toney being a hybrid player until his senior season. But is it a good thing for a supposedly high-end WR prospect to not play WR for his first three college seasons?
Final Season Yards per Route Run. If our WR prospects return for their senior seasons, we want them to pull a Devonta Smith and absolutely smash the competition. But Toney was merely good in 2020, not great. His 2.62 YPRR on 373 routes was an improvement on what he’d shown to date. But it was well below his teammate Kyle Pitts‘ 3.26, and wasn’t all that much better than RBs Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright.
Raw Speed. Toney is fast, but he’s not Tyreek Hill (4.29 40) fast. He’s unlikely to find success early in his career simply by outrunning everyone on the field.
Mediocre Special Teams Play. Despite his playmaking ability as a rusher and tackle breaker, Toney wasn’t actually much of a return man. On 15 career kick returns, he averaged a solid but not spectacular 21.6 yards with zero TDs. As a punt returner, he averaged a mediocre 11.3 yards on 13 attempts. He did at least score a TD as a punt returner.
Overall, a lack of return ability isn’t a big deal. But with a project WR like Toney, we want his résumé as an electric playmaker to be bulletproof because he’ll need to be highly dynamic to make up for a lack of polish as a WR.
WR is a highly skilled position. We don’t have a ton of successful stories of elite hybrid athletes becoming high-end NFL WRs. In fact, the recent examples have pointed the other direction, with college WRs Ty Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Antonio Gibson finding success as RBs, after either failed stints at WR — or in Gibson’s case, landing with a coaching staff sharp enough to move him to RB right away. And while there are some examples of players stylistically similar to Toney that have been successful NFL WRs, the three most prominent recent examples (Percy Harvin, Curtis Samuel, and Randall Cobb) all did enough as underclassmen to earn first- and second-round draft selections. Toney almost certainly would not have been selected in a comparable range if he’d also declared after three college seasons.
That said… the fantasy community sometimes gets really excited about young, athletic gimmick players. Following his rookie season, Cordarrelle Patterson was selected in startups ahead of every member of the legendary 2014 WR class. If you’re in a league with a highly active trade market, I can get on board with betting on Toney to flash enough in 2021 to flip for a profit.
Ultimately though, I’d like Toney a lot more if he was 20-30 lbs heavier. That would put him in the Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty Montgomery, Antonio Gibson weight range where he could have a second life as a RB. As is, he’s at risk of washing out of the league entirely if he doesn’t stick at WR, à la Braxton Miller.
Prospect Grade: Second-Round Rookie Pick
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
- Brandin Cooks
- Golden Tate
- Christian Kirk
- Percy Harvin
Age. Moore doesn’t turn 21 until June.
Athleticism. Moore is a literal ball of muscle. He famously squatted 600 lbs as a freshman and put up 24 reps on the bench. Moore is also extremely explosive, running a 4.32 40 with a 42.5″ vertical and a 126″ broad jump. He also crushed the agility drills with a 6.68 3 cone and a 4.1 short shuttle.
Freshman Breakout. Rondale Moore is the rare prospect who hit the 30% Dominator rating threshold as a true freshman. In 13 games, he had 114 receptions for 1,258 yards and 12 TDs, accounting for a 31% yardage share and a 43% TD share.
Career Market Share of Yards. As we’ll get to, Moore’s career numbers were driven primarily by his freshman year. So while it’s impressive for any three-year WR to post a 30% career yardage share, it’s also strangely disappointing given the strength of his 2018 season. Nonetheless, Moore’s career yardage share was better than every three-year prospect in last year’s class.
YPRR. Moore peaked in market share as a freshman, but he was actually most efficient as a sophomore. His YPRR improved from 2.64 in 2018 to 2.96 in 2019. He also put additional distance between himself and his teammates, improving from 1.36 better than his teammates to 1.61 as a sophomore.
Small Sample Since 2018. As impressive as Moore’s freshman season was, we haven’t seen much of him since. In 2019-2020, he played only seven games. He’s not a one-year wonder exactly, but it would have been nice to see more of him at the college level.
Injury History. The reason we didn’t see more of Rondale Moore is that he was injured most of 2019 and 2020. He didn’t suffer anything that should have a lasting impact, but it is a concern to see him struggle with health at the college level given how much smaller he’ll be than his opponents going forward.
Size. Moore is 5’7″. You don’t see many NFL players who are 5’7″, let alone at the WR position. Brandin Cooks‘ height was a red flag entering the league and he has three inches on Moore. Given how short he is, it’s difficult to imagine him as a traditional downfield WR.
Moore is extremely well built for his size and electric with the ball in his hands, so the idea of him being used close to the line of scrimmage or even out of the backfield makes some sense. But generally, that’s something we want as icing on the cake for our fantasy WRs, not a core piece of their NFL role.
aDOT. I don’t always discuss average depth of target, but Moore’s aDOT was strikingly low.
Moore’s aDOT during his freshman breakout was just 5.5. It peaked in 2019 at 8.3 but then shrank to a Deebo Samuel-esque 2.6 in 2020. Only Kadarius Toney had a lower aDOT in 2020 among 2021’s high-end prospects. And considering that Toney is at risk of being a gadget-only player in the NFL… that’s not a great sign for a player who already has questions about his size.
Moore is a highly dynamic, highly athletic and highly productive three-year college player. What’s not to love? Well… the fact that he’s 5’7″ and probably limited to a gadget role in the NFL unless he finds a perfect landing spot.
That landing spot could be out there though. A selection by the Chiefs or the Bills would set Moore up to be used creatively, and could also set him up for success as a more traditional slot WR given the strength of the QB play and surrounding weapons. Or maybe the Jets select him to be their version of Deebo Samuel.
Outside of dream landing spots however, his size and aDOT make me concerned that he’ll get frittered away by a coach that thinks he’s a lot more creative than he is. God help us if he goes to the Raiders.
Then again — like with Elijah Moore, I don’t want to get too carried away with judging Rondale Moore based on player archetype. Moore is an unusual prospect; but he was also an unusually productive prospect from the moment he stepped on a college football field.
Prospect Grade: Late First-Round Rookie Pick
Dyami Brown, WR, UNC
- Robert Woods
- Christian Kirk
- Chad Jackson
- Earl Bennett
Age. Brown doesn’t turn 22 until November.
Underclassman Breakout. Brown was excellent in both 2019 and 2020, both of which count as breakout seasons. In 2019, he produced 30% of UNC’s receiving yards and 32% of their receiving TDs. He then followed that up with a 33% yardage share and a 29% TD share. Either one of these seasons would have been impressive. It’s even more bullish that he hit these marks twice.
Career Market Share of Yards. Brown didn’t contribute much at all in his freshman year, but his next two seasons were strong enough that he posted a career yardage share of 25%, which is a solid mark for a three-year WR.
YPRR. Brown wasn’t just the focal point of his offense because they lacked better options; he was highly efficient at UNC. In 2020, he had an elite YPRR of 3.11. This was 1.56 better than his teammates’ combined YPRR — indicating that he was providing quite a bit more receiving value than his teammates.
Athleticism. Brown isn’t a bad athlete. But he ran a purely vertical route tree at UNC, as indicated by his 18.4 aDOT in 2020. Given his current skill set, it’s clear what his NFL role will be — at least early in his career. It’s a concern then, that he only ran a 4.46 40 at his pro day at 6’1″, 189. His 35″ vertical also isn’t terrible, but fails to excite given his smaller size and lack of game-changing speed.
Brown’s lack of speed and leaping ability don’t rule out a promising rookie season as a deep threat. After all, Gabriel Davis was a Day 3 success story last season with a rookie aDOT of 17.4, despite only running a 4.54 and jumping 35″. Davis did land in a perfect situation where defenses couldn’t key on taking him away, and he still has a path to meaningful targets going forward. (He also weighs 27 lbs more than Brown).
A secondary role in a pass-heavy offense is likely Brown’s best-case scenario to begin his career. But we can’t rule out him developing into a more well-rounded WR at the NFL level. We saw this type of development with Chris Godwin, who had an aDOT of 15.5 in his final season at Penn State as a clear deep threat. He then had a rookie aDOT of 13.2 and it looked like he’d play a similar role in the NFL. But by his third-year breakout his aDOT was down to 10.3 and he was playing primarily out of the slot.
Brown probably isn’t going to make a huge impact in the NFL right away, but his multiple breakout seasons and elite final-season YPRR point to a high ceiling if he can add additional elements to his game.