Fantasy Football Outlook: The DJ Moore Conundrum
Andrew Cooper takes a look at Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore and gives his analysis on why the talented receiver is having a down year in 2020.
I've seen a lot of folks saying D.J. Moore stinks or "the D.J. Moore experiment is over" so I decided to take a look at some numbers. After taking only a quick peek it was pretty easy to see what’s really going on. The answer is that Teddy Bridgewater loves to throw it short - especially over the middle of the field.
If you look at Bridgewater's passing direction chart, courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com, 39-percent of his 306 passes have been both between the numbers and less than 10 yards down field (which includes the space behind the line of scrimmage and between the numbers). Those attempts have generated 35-percent of his total passing yards. In that space, Robby Anderson has 30 receptions for 269 yards, Moore has 16 receptions for 210 yards, and Curtis Samuel has 16 receptions for 100 yards. For each player, that space is easily the largest source of their receptions and yards.
If you look at a guy like Aaron Rodgers that same space between the numbers and less than 10 yards downfield accounts for a big chunk of his production (as you would expect for most QBs) but the numbers are not nearly as dramatic. Rodgers has 26-percent of his attempts in that space (compared to 39-percent for Bridgewater) and 22-percent of his yardage (compared to 35-percent for Bridgewater). Thirteen percent is not a small figure when we are talking about the 550-to-650 passes most QBs throw on a season.
Now, let’s go back to Moore and Anderson. Coming into the season, most people projected that the speedy Robby Anderson would be the field stretcher on the outside but the opposite has been true. Moore has caught 35 passes. 17 have been on routes over 10-yards down field and 18 on routes less than 10-yards. Robby Anderson has caught 60 passes and 16 have come over 10-yards downfield while 44 have come less than 10-yards downfield. Pretty clear who is running the shorter routes.
If you look at the space that is outside the numbers on either side and less than 10-yards down field (so basically the flats either behind the line or short of the first down marker), you see a similar pattern. Moore has two catches in that area (including zero screens behind the line). Robby Anderson has 14.
In general, Bridgewater's deep pass rate (percentage of passes thrown 20+ yards in the air) is only 11.1-percent which is tied for QB25. Despite his lack of production overall, Moore's 272 yards on passes over 20-yards is actually the third most in the league behind only DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson and just ahead of Tyreek Hill . Justin Jefferson has 321 yards on deep pass plays from Kirk Cousins who has a deep pass rate of 19.1-percent while Moore has 272 yards on deep pass plays from a QB with a deep pass rate of 11.1-percent. Moore has caught nearly 50-percent of his passes beyond 10 yards and 42.5-percent of his yards are on passes over 20+ yards. Forget ~20-percent like Cousins - we have to wonder what Moore’s numbers might look like if Bridgewater’s rate was simply at the median level of 14-15-percent.
All this info makes the situation fairly clear - Robby Anderson and, recently, Curtis Samuel as well, are running shorter routes and either Teddy Bridgewater prefers to throw shorter passes or the offense in general lends itself to these passes. And the return of Christian McCaffrey is likely to bring an even higher percentage of shorter passes, not fewer. For Moore to succeed, he either needs to start running shorter routes or Teddy Bridgewater needs to start throwing deeper passes. Perhaps after four straight losses the Panthers will change up their approach but we need to actually see it before Moore can be trusted in fantasy.
The topic of D.J. Moore and his recent struggles was also discussed by Adam Ronis and Howard Bender on the most recent episode of the Ante Up Podcast which you can listen to by clicking the link below.