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Player Praise: David Moore – Getting Moore for Less

After his breakout season in 2018, most notably his 4th down game-winner against the Panthers, many fans, including myself, expected Moore to become the next late-round wide receiver gem. However, many fans gave up hope on David Moore following his disappointing 2019 campaign as he battled through a shoulder injury. Blame it on the injury or the emergence of DK Metcalf, bottom line is Moore failed to meet expectations in 2019.

Entering the 2020 offseason, David Moore was a restricted free agent (RFA) and the Seahawks signed him to an original-round tender and a 2.1M salary, a reasonable amount for the team’s WR3. However, a flurry of roster moves by the Seahawks to bolster their receiving corps left many wondering if Moore would even make the roster, let alone continue to improve. The signing of Phillip Dorsett early in the offseason, hopeful progression of John Ursua, rumors of Antonio Brown joining the Seahawks, selection of Freddie Swain in the 6th round of the 2020 draft, and the late signing of Josh Gordon (who has yet to be reinstated by the NFL following his suspension) didn’t bode well for Moore’s roster chances.

Just before the season started and the 53-man roster finalized, David Moore selflessly took a big pay cut in order to stay with the Seahawks. His new 1-year contract paid him only 825K, much friendlier (from a team perspective) than his original 2.1M tender.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much of a VALUE David Moore has been. The dude took a pay cut to stay on the team, knowing he likely would’ve been cut if he didn’t. This also opened up cap space for the Seahawks, part of which is being used to pay Carlos Dunlap, our much needed pass rusher. He’s well on his way to hitting career highs in most receiving categories and has outperformed his 825K salary by a wide margin. This doesn’t even take into account his abilities as a punt returner or rusher. I think it’s fair to say that he has been worth AT LEAST his original 2.1M tender.

A Trusty Third Wide Receiver

When you have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf as your top-two receivers, your WR3 doesn’t necessarily need to contribute a whole lot. However, Moore has more than contributed his fair share. He has downfield jump ball ability and a penchant for making highlight reel catches, like his toe-tapping pylon-grazing catch against New England. Moore is only 5th on the Seahawks in targets, but he’s been efficient when targeted and is the perfect complement to DK’s raw-athleticism and Lockett’s new role as a possession receiver. Let’s take a look at his stats below.

20 targets, 16 receptions, 80% catch rate, 1 drop, 5.0% drop rate

245 yards, 15.3 yards per reception (21st), 12.3 yards per target (4th), 157.3 passer rating (1st)

3 TDs, 15.0% TD rate (8th)

4 rushes, 44 yards, 11.0 yards per carry, 6.6 yards after catch per reception

Moore has dramatically improved his catch rate, as his career high prior to 2020 was 50.0% in 2019. However, it might be explained by his lower ADOT this year at 11.2 yards vs. 14.2 yards in 2019. Nonetheless, Moore is catching balls at a higher rate than ever before and has the highest the catch rate among Seattle wide receivers. Moore has also never really struggled with drops, having just 5 drops for his entire career and 1 in 2020. His 5.0% drop rate is lower than both DK and Lockett, who have drop rates of 5.1% and 11.1%, respectively, this season. (Seems like an off year for Lockett, who had just 2 drops in the past 2 years.)

Moore ranks VERY high in most efficiency metrics, including a LEAGUE-LEADING passer rating of 157.3 when targeted (perfect rating is 158.3). He also ranks 4th in the league in Yards per Target, ahead of DK who is 8th with an 11.5 YPT. His 15.3 Yards per Reception showcase his ability as a downfield big-play threat, but trails DK who is ranked 2nd with an 18.9 YPR.

Part of Moore’s league-leading passer rating when targeted is due to the fact Russ trusts Moore in the end zone. His 3 touchdowns on just 20 targets produces a touchdown rate of 15.0%, 8th best in the league and well ahead of DK and Lockett, who have touchdown rates of 11.9% and 11.1%. To give you an idea of how insane a touchdown rate of 15.0% is, consider that Russell Wilson’s career TD% is 6.3% and his career high entering this season was 8.2%. Wilson’s TD% in 2020 of 10.2% is absolutely BONKERS and so is Moore’s TD% of 15.0%.

Moore’s ability to create in open space is wildly underappreciated. His success on jet sweeps have opened up a new part of Seattle’s offense we haven’t seen in years past. To put his 11.0 YPC in context, LA Rams receiver Robert Woods, who gashes us routinely on these sweeps, has averaged 6.8 YPC over the past two seasons. Moore’s 2020 rushing success isn’t a fluke either, as he rushed 3 times last season for 25 yards and an 8.3 YPC. Moore is a dangerous receiver in open space, and his 6.6 YAC/R is better than DK’s 5.7 YAC/R, even after DK’s monster after-the-catch runs against SF and MIA.

A Slippery Punt Returner

This is what I think makes David Moore undervalued. His ability as a WR3 alone keeps him on this roster, but his success on punt returns is what makes David Moore a truly valuable asset. He’s solidified the punt return role after a couple years of underperformance (read: disinterest) from Tyler Lockett. Here are Moore’s punt return stats through Week 8.

6 returns, 74 yards, 12.3 yards per return (8th*)

*only includes players with 3 or more punt returns

As noted by many analysts and fans, the Seahawks special teams unit has been far better than years past and part of their success is attributed to Moore’s ability to create in open space and set up the offense with good field position. He has just 6 returns (shame on our defense for not getting enough stops, but that’s nothing new), so the sample size is small, but his success should not be overlooked.

Moore’s longest return is just 20 yards, which means his 8th best average isn’t supported by one long return. This means that he CONSISTENTLY gets near double-digits on his punt returns. Moore’s success this year isn’t some fluke either, as his 2019 average on 10 returns was 7.5 yards. Considering that 7.5 is former All-Pro returner Tyler Lockett’s career average, Moore’s 12.3 average this season is remarkable. Moore’s career long on a punt return was this season at just 20 yards, so he’s yet to break a long return on his 16 career returns, but he certainly has the ability to. Take a look at his combine measurable versus Tyler Lockett.

Moore: 4.43s 40-yard dash, 2.53s 20-yard split, 1.59s 10-yard split, 6.98s 3-cone drill

Lockett: 4.40s 40-yard dash, 2.59s 20-yard split, 1.55s 10-yard split, 6.89s 3-cone drill

I know combine measurements aren’t the best measure of an athlete’s on-field performance, as there are other intangibles like instinct and vision that play a factor (see: DK’s 3-cone drill), but we can use this to measure an athlete’s explosiveness. Moore’s speed is nearly IDENTICAL to that of Lockett’s, with just a slightly slower 40 time and a slower 3-cone drill. All this tells me that Moore has the EXPLOSIVENESS to take a punt return to the house, even though he has yet to do so. Return touchdowns are tough to come by, and even former All-Pro Tyler Lockett only has 1 punt return TD in his career. Below are how the two compare side by side in their careers as a returner.

David Moore:

Career average: 9.5 yards per return

2019 average: 7.5 yards per return

2020 average: 12.3 yards per return

Career long: 20 yards (0 TD)

Tyler Lockett:

Career average: 7.5 yards per return

2015 average: 9.5 yards per return (All-Pro Season)

2018 average: 5.7 yards per return

2019 average: 5.1 yards per return

Career long: 66 yards (1 TD)

I made a joke about Lockett being ineffective on punt returns due to his disinterest in returning, but I think there is some truth to that. Lockett had an average season returning punts in 2017 with a 6.6 yard average, but fell under 6.0 yards in each season after that. This also coincided with his emergence as a near-elite receiver (remember, 2018 was his season with a perfect passer rating when targeted). Starting 2018, the Seahawks returners have been lackluster, to say the least. Enter David Moore.

Moore’s career average, buoyed by his success this season, would’ve matched that of Lockett’s in his 2015 All-Pro season as a return man. I’m not sure that Moore will ever have as much success as Lockett did early in his career (I certainly hope he does though!), but the point I’m trying to make is that Moore, as a punt returner, has been more than just someone who relieved Lockett of his return duties – he’s actually been GOOD, if not great.

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