D.J Moore Is THE Fantasy Football Breakout Wide Receiver In 2019
Most of the content that we have made an effort put out on RotoExperts this year has been more broad than “Draft THIS player at THIS ADP”. We have ran out sleeper lists for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. There have been breakout and bust articles, as well as guides on how to do the perfect Zero RB Draft and even the best way to dominate Best Ball leagues on DRAFT. However, there are some players who are such good value propositions that it is important that we allow some space for a single-focus article. D.J Moore is one of the players that is most clearly a candidate for a breakout into the top 12 of the wide receiver position in fantasy football that he demands his own space.
D.J Moore Is The Prototype Breakout Wide Receiver
Everything that could possibly exist in the perfect conditions for a breakout wide receiver exists for D.J Moore. He plays with an elite quarterback (assuming that shoulder injuries won’t hamper Newton in 2019) which is really pre-requisite number one for a breakout wide receiver candidate. Newton has sustained top 12 elite fantasy receiving seasons for Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, Steve Smith, and Ted Ginn but hasn’t really had a true WR1-caliber player since Steve Smith’s heyday. The best pass-catcher Newton has ever played with is Greg Olsen who had five straight 110+ target seasons while healthy through 2012-2016. The Panthers organization saddled Newton with Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess who were really just bigger tight ends through most of his prime.
D.J Moore is an entirely different style of player than anyone that has been on the Panthers roster throughout Cam Newton’s career. D.J Moore is one year removed from being a first-round draft pick, ran a 4.42 4-yard dash at 210 pounds, had a 97th percentile Dominator Rating at Maryland, 92nd percentile SPARQ athleticism, and most importantly, actually produced as a rookie.
What follows is the list of players who, like D.J Moore, had more than 14 yards per reception on 75 or more targets as rookies younger than 22.
I mean, just look at that list. Moss, Evans, Watkins, Woods, Smith-Shuster, Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Amari Cooper. The only player on this list you could even argue came close to being a bust was Kenny Britt but his struggles with injury are legendary. Even Antonio Bryant had over 5,000 career yards and 30 touchdowns! So before even getting into the more granular data of teammates, quarterbacks, playing time and all other variables, Moore is in probably the best comparable bucket that you could dream of for a rookie wide receiver. There are probably some readers questioning this method of analysis. While we would be the first to admit this is not the most perfect methodology in existence for projecting, it is always extremely helpful to put players in a historical context to see their potential range of outcomes.
Another significant variable in projecting the Panthers offense and D.J Moore, in particular, is the removal of Devin Funchess and the aging of Greg Olsen. Olsen has played in only 16 games combined the last two seasons and accounted for only 76 targets across those 16 games. Meanwhile, in the two games that Devin Funchess missed last year, Moore blew up from a fantasy perspective.
In the games that Funchess was not active, Moore’s targets roughly increased by 90% and he posted two of the best games of his 2018 rookie season. It is worth noting that Curtis Samuel also received a pretty significant uptick in playing time and volume over the latter half of the season while the Panthers scaled back Funchess’ playing time. In projecting the target allocation of for the Panthers in 2019, Christian McCaffrey is still the odds-on favorite to lead them in targets, followed by Moore and then Samuel. However, when we are discussing target allocation we are speaking in terms of probability.
There are certainly a few things that could swing the volume in Moore’s favor. The first would be any sort of injury to Greg Olsen. While Olsen has been a stalwart for the Panthers, he has struggled with injury the last two seasons and was even pondering retirement over the offseason. This is likely his final season in the NFL and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him scale back in both playing time in volume. The other thing that could really impact Moore’s volume is some sort of scaling back in Christian McCaffrey’s role. I haven’t really heard this discussed but it needs to be viewed as a real threat. CMC lead all NFL running backs in snaps played last year, was 17th in the NFL in targets and third in the NFL in total touches. Now let me be clear: Moore can still have a breakout, 140-target season with McCaffrey keeping a similar volume to his 2018 though it will be a little more difficult to scale him to the Hopkins/Julio/Beckham/Smith-Shuster tier if he is playing with another 100+ target player. However, Moore absolutely profiles as the sort of player who will demand that sort of target volume, the way that Hopkins jumped from 91 targets to 127 or Julio went from 95 to 128 both in their second season.
The Bull Case For D.J Moore In 2019 Fantasy Football
Really, it is quite simple to see how Moore ends up taking a massive leap in 2019. Greg Olsen either scales back in terms of usage or misses game time due to injury while Moore asserts himself as the most valuable offensive player on the Panthers roster. Most of this is contingent on Cam Newton staying healthy for 16 games but if he were forced to miss time, Will Grier is actually a fairly competent backup and a quarterback I liked a good bit as a prospect. Curtis Samuel could throw a small bit of water on the upside for Moore in 2019 but Samuel is more of a complementary/slot style wide receiver as opposed to a full-fledged WR1 like Moore. In the end, it should not surprise anyone if Moore takes the same leap that many other former first-round wide receivers have taken as they enter their second season in the NFL.
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