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2018 NFL Draft

If Saints Decide to Target a Wide Receiver With Their First Pick, Maryland’s D.J. Moore is the “Perfect Fit”

As the first full week of the official NFL 2018 Free Agency signing period came to an end yesterday, the New Orleans Saints still have yet to add any playmakers to their offense. 

Besides the need for a pass-catching tight end, the Saints are also a bit thin at the WR position currently; with only #1 WR Michael Thomas and #2 WR Ted Ginn, Jr. sitting on top of the depth chart.

The Saints have placed the lowest restricted free agent tender on #4 wide receiver Willie Snead; and since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Ball State in 2014, the “original round” tender placed on him grants the Saints the right to first refusal only and no potential draft pick compensation.

Teams interested in Snead can sign him to an offer sheet with the Saints getting a chance to match any contract.

However, New Orleans did not place a tender on Snead's teammate and fellow undrafted #3 WR Brandon Coleman, automatically making him an unrestricted free agent free to negotiate with any NFL team.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hinton, New Orleans Advocate

The team hasn't given any indication one way or another if they plan to reach out with an offer, to bring him back for a 4th NFL season.

So it goes without saying: if the team doesn't sign any of the remaining free agent WR's within the next few weeks, it's VERY likely that they will address the position directly via next month's 2018 NFL Draft.

The only question will be: how soon in the Draft, do they intend to target one.

With their turn to pick in the 1st Round not coming until the #27th overall selection, there's a really good chance that the Saints will immediately choose to take one right at that spot.

There are a handful of talented WR's in this year's class, but only a few that seemingly would make a "perfect fit" in New Orleans while Drew Brees is still the quarterback.

And perhaps no one player would "fit" the Saints offense any more perfectly, than University of Maryland WR D.J. Moore.

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

Often compared to now-retired NFL superstar and former Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, the 6-foot, 210 pound Moore had a very successful career for the Terrapins in spite of the football program's "revolving door" at the QB position. Moore caught passes from eight different quarterbacks in his three seasons, including four different passers in 2017 alone.

But he was able to persevere in spite of that, thanks mostly in part to the tutelage that he got from former Terrapins WR coach Keenan McCardell (who's now coaching wide receivers for the Jacksonville Jaguars).

Moore started 10-of-12 games as a true freshman in 2015, catching 25 passes for 357 yards with three touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2016, Moore led the Terps in receiving (41 receptions, 637 yards, six touchdowns) and took over primary kick-return duties by the end of the season.

But it was last year during the 2017 season when Moore truly shined the brightest of all, and NFL scouts quickly took notice.

Moore was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year and 1st-team All-Big Ten as a junior in 2017, catching a school-record 80 passes for 1,033 yards with eight TDs. In his entire time at Maryland, he made 146 receptions for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in 36 games for the Terrapins.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

But despite receiving neither a 1st or a 2nd-round grade from the underclassman advisory board, Moore decided to declare early for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Nevertheless, Moore is being projected as a late 1st Round / early 2nd Round pick by most analysts at the moment, and the likelihood that Moore will still be available once the Saints are 'on the clock' at #27, would have to be considered pretty good.

Moore even furthered his draft stock 3 weeks ago, with an outstanding performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Among all wide receiver participants, Moore had the best broad jump (11 feet), the second-best vertical (39.5 inches) and the fifth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds)

Pro Football Weekly football / NFL Draft analyst Eric Edholm says that ideally, Moore would land with a team that could use his quickness, field vision and toughness as a complementary option — either in the slot or outside — and not as a true #1 WR. But with his ability to line up all over the place and return kicks, there should be an immediate role for him somewhere on a creative team. 

It goes without saying that the Saints would be one of the more "creative" teams under head coach Sean Payton.

While at Maryland, Moore lined up all over the field: in the slot, out wide, in motion and even in the backfield. He also returned kicks and punts effectively, and was particularly effective on end-arounds, reverses, direct handoffs, and even as a passer — with a 3-for-5, 36 yard total as a passer over his three seasons.

Edholm says that Moore is stout, has a compact build and runs low to the ground, almost like a running back. He makes the additional observation that Moore plays with a lot of passion and fire, which is why he always seems to be willing to fight through contact for extra yards. 

Edholm adds that Moore possesses good situational awareness, and can be a feisty, willing blocker on the perimeter — and at times he will even intentionally seek out unsuspecting linebackers and safeties to crack back against. And despite his lack of height, Moore also showed he can be an effective red-zone target as well.

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

Moore is far from perfect however, and his weaknesses in Edholm's view are that he needs to become a more 'polished' route runner. At times, he also has trouble separating on some vertical routes against equally fast (or faster) cornerbacks, and occasionally takes too long to gear up to top speed downfield.

Additionally, he cautions that Moore isn't a true jump-ball receiver who should be asked to win 50-50 battles. And he notes that there are times when Moore will 'short-arm' a pass in traffic here and there, or occasionally will drop an easy one where he simply just lets it slip through his hands.

But believe this: if that's ALL that you can find negative to say about Moore as an evaluator, than it speaks volumes to how much pure, natural talent that he truly possesses.

What Moore brings to the table is a sure-handed receiver who is as quick as he is fast; and he's able to get off the line of scrimmage swiftly and in and out of cuts.

He's also an explosive 'play-maker' with the capability to "blow the top off" of defenses and run underneath routes. He can create space against nearly any defender that he's matched-up against, and can become a solid #2 WR initially upon entering the League with the eventual probability of even becoming a #1 WR down the line in spite of his size.

And perhaps most important of all for the Saints: he's considered one of the highest character guys among all of this year's college prospects, and draws near unanimous praise from both NFL talent evaluators and front office executives alike.

Bottom line: Moore is a complete receiver with exceptional run-after-the-catch skills, who will do very well at the next level. And he seemingly would be a "perfect fit" for the Saints with their first pick at #27.

Assuming that the Saints don't end up signing a WR in Free Agency, Moore's name will definitely be one for Saints fans to remember later on next month, once New Orleans is 'on the clock'.......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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