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DJ Moore's 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

D.J. Moore - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

One of this year’s biggest offseason moves, arguably the biggest actually, was when the Carolina Panthers traded up for the No. 1 spot in this year’s NFL Draft. The move makes a lot of sense for them. They’ve gone through several throw-away veterans such as Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield. It’s time to finally build the most important position through the draft, but the cost of acquisition wasn’t cheap. On top of the additional draft picks, they also had to surrender their star receiver, D.J. Moore.

For Moore, there’s been a lot of excitement around this news. Justin Fields could, after all, be the best quarterback he’s ever played with. However, as you’ll see as we move along here, crossing that bar is just about as easy as it gets. That hasn’t stopped Moore’s spring ADP from climbing, however.

Right now, Moore is being drafted on Underdog as the WR21 with an ADP of 41.5. On BB10, he’s being drafted as the WR21 with an ADP of 45. Folks, I have to be honest, I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let me explain.

Be sure to also check our other Week 14 fantasy football waiver wire pickups articles:


The Past is the Best Predictor of the Future

If you want to know what is most likely to happen in the future, look to the past. That’s a common saying. So is that “history repeats itself”. We say these things because they are true. That’s not to say that history always repeats itself, but it does a lot of the time. That fourth-year player you’re predicting to break out in year five probably isn’t going to happen.

We know that target share is very sticky, even when players change to new teams. How coaches operate also tends to be very similar. We all know Doug Pederson’s affection for tight ends or Sean Payton’s love affair with running back targets. With that said, let’s begin by asking ourselves what we know.

2022 7.0 27.7% 3.7 52.2 53.6% 14.1 92.0 13.3 0.64 5.9% 2.02 26.8% 11.7 12.4 32
2021 9.5 28.4% 5.5 68.1 57.8% 12.3 96.0 10.1 0.76 2.4% 2.02 28.3% 14 16.5 28
2020 7.9 24.6% 4.4 79.5 55.6% 18 105 13.3 0.53 3.3% 2.27 22.5% 14.1 10.9 27
2019 9.0 24.3% 5.8 78.3 64.4% 13.5 101.9 11.3 0.86 2.9% 2.40 27.6% 15.4 15.7 16

The table above includes Moore’s statistics from the past four years, eliminating his rookie season. A couple of things should jump off the page right away. For starters, Moore is an incredibly talented receiver. That much is clear. Looking at his target share and target per route run, you know this guy can get open and earn targets at an elite rate. Looking at his yard per route run, you can see that he’s managed to remain an efficient receiver despite the well-known, poor quarterback play.

His catch rate is another number that sticks out like a sore thumb. He has exactly one season with a catch rate over 60% and that was all the way back in 2019. This is no doubt a side effect of the quarterbacks he’s played with, but I’m not sure fantasy managers should be banking on too much of an improvement in that department. We’ll get to that in a second.

The other number that stands out is his touchdown rate. He scored four touchdowns each season from 2019-2021, all with touchdown rates less than 3.4% He finally broke out in 2022 with seven touchdowns and a 5.9% touchdown rate, but that wasn’t enough to avoid his worst WR finish in four years, coming in as the WR32 in 2022.

This brings us to the last number we should be concerned about, Moore’s current ranking, which is WR21. He finished as the WR32 in 2022, WR28 in 2021, and WR27 in 2020. You’d have to go all the way back to 2019 to find the last time Moore actually out-played his current ADP. Now, I get it. Things change and we have to readjust, but did things really change?


Is Chicago Just More of the Same for DJ Moore?

Justin Fields is, without question, the best fantasy quarterback that Moore has ever played with. Of course, that doesn’t really matter for Moore. The thing that does matter is Fields' skillset as a passer. His rushing ability does very little for Moore’s fantasy prospects, so let’s see how Fields stacks up against Moore’s quarterbacks of old, shall we?

Year Pass Attempts PG Completion Percentage TD % Int % YPA IAY/PA QB Rating
Fields, 2022 23.0 61.3% 5.4% 2.5% 7.0 8.9 73.2
Carolina, 2022 26.9 58.4% 3.5% 2.8% 6.4 7.2 80.2
Carolina, 2021 35.2 58.1% 2.3% 3.5% 6.0 7.4 68.5
Carolina, 2020 34.4 67.8% 2.9% 2.9% 7.5 7.5 87.5
Carolina, 2019 39.6 60.3% 2.7% 1.3% 6.5 8.3 74.7
Carolina, Average 33.9 61.2% 2.8% 3.1% 6.7 7.6

For the record, I used only weeks 4-18 for Fields’ sample here. In the first three weeks of the 2022 season, Fields averaged just 15 pass attempts per game and just 99 yards. There was a fairly sizable change between those first three weeks and the rest of the season. He would go on to average 23 pass attempts and 161 yards per game. Not great, but still significantly better, all things considered.

You’ll notice his completion percentage is pretty much in line with the four-year average of all the quarterbacks Moore has had to endure from 2019-2022. During that time frame, Moore’s catch rate is 57.8%, so we shouldn’t be expecting too much deviation from that number in 2023.

The one advantage Fields has over the four-year Carolina span is in his touchdown rate and intended air yards per attempt. His touchdown rate is 2.6 percentage points higher than what Moore has had to deal with the last four years, although that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect more touchdowns because of just how many fewer passes Fields threw in 2022 compared to the four-year average. 11 fewer attempts are no joke.

Fields also had a significantly higher average in his intended air yards per attempt. That could be a double-edged sword of sorts. If you scroll back up to Moore’s four-year stats, look specifically at 2020 and 2022. During those years Moore had his highest average depth of target and his highest yard per reception. During those years Moore also had the two worst catch rates of his career, which makes sense. Deeper targets have a lower rate of completion.

All in all, whatever positives Fields may bring as a passer, specifically his higher touchdown rate, is completely nullified by the team’s significantly lower passing volume and the higher depth of target could be nullified by a lower catch rate.

So, is this Moore’s best quarterback he’s ever played with? The answer right now isn’t a yes or no, it’s a maybe, but even if it is a yes, the difference may be fairly marginal and we shouldn’t expect a drastic change from what we’ve come to expect from Moore. What does all of this mean for Moore?


What to Expect in 2023

Fantasy managers would be best to contain whatever excitement they may have about Moore’s change in venue. While Justin Fields is an exciting player, very little of that reflects his ability to pass the football consistently. Could he get better? Absolutely. Will he be better? I’d bet money on it. The question becomes what kind of improvement we can realistically expect and what are you willing to bet on it? Specifically, how much are you willing to pay to draft Moore to find out?

Let’s play a game of what if, shall we? Let’s say DJ Moore has a 28% target share, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of where he’s been the last two years. Let’s say he catches 60% of his passes. Remember Moore’s four-year catch rate average in Carolina is 57.8% and the QBs have averaged a 61.2% completion percentage. Fields was at 61.3% last year, so we’re giving him a slight boost here, assuming Fields improves. We’ll put him at 13 yards per reception, which is in between his 2019 and 2021 seasons when his depth of target was lower, which helped his catch rate and we’ll give him a 4.5% touchdown rate.

Within these parameters, we’re trying to envision Moore in a do-it-all, alpha-receiver type of role. The Bears were at 23 pass attempts per game in Weeks 4-18. What would those averages for Moore look like if we give the Bears 25, 28, 30, and 32 passes a game?

Pass Attempts PG Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns Full-PPR PPG
25 119 71 923 4.75 11.2
28 133 78 1,014 6.0 12.6
30 143 85 1,105 6.5 13.7
32 151 90 1,170 7.0 14.6

Ok, now let’s change up his role a bit. Let’s pretend Chicago chooses to use Moore more as a downfield threat, which would more closely align with the role we saw from Moore in 2020. This would also correlate with Fields’ higher yard per attempt and intended air yard per attempt average.

With the increased depth of target, let’s say Moor’s target share drops to 26%, which is still an elite number. We’ll also assume that he catches 55% of his passes at 15.5 yards per reception. With the increase in target depth, we’ll give him a 5.0% touchdown rate, hoping he’s able to break a few big ones. Here, we’re trying to envision Moore working as more of a downfield threat as he did in 2020.

Pass Attempts PG Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns Full-PPR PPG
25 111 61 945 5.5 11.0
28 124 68 1,054 6.0 12.3
30 132 73 1,131 6.5 13.2
32 141 78 1,209 7.0 14.1

As you can from the two tables above, we’re mostly looking at a range of outcomes that puts Moore between 11 and 14.5 full-PPR PPG. Last year, those PPG averages would have resulted in a range of WR18-WR37. We’re talking about Brandin Cooks, 2022 to Amari Cooper, 2022. Worst case scenario to the best case scenario. Where did WR21 finish last year, which is the spot where Moore is currently being drafted at? 13.6 full-PPR PPG. Right now, fantasy managers are having to invest in DJ Moore at just about his ceiling, which is never a good investment.

Also, be cognizant that the best-case scenario involves the Bears increasing their passing volume by about 30%. We’re talking about them going from dead last in pass attempts in 2022 to slightly below average in 2023. This is very unlikely, in my opinion.

I’m of the mind, the Bears will finish somewhere in the 28-30 range in regard to pass attempts per game. This would be similar to the Ravens, 49ers, Saints, and Giants last year. Using this number of pass attempts and our two what-if scenarios for Moore above, his range of outcomes now becomes 12.3 full-PPR PPG to 13.7 full-PPR PPG. We’re still buying him at his ceiling right now and that’s factoring in a 20% increase in the team’s overall passing volume.

To make Moore’s current cost of admission worth it, you have to be expecting a massive increase in the team’s passing volume or a significant increase in Fields’ passing efficiency. Both of these seem far from guaranteed. Until Moore’s price drops, fantasy managers would be best to let someone else draft Moore at his current asking price.

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