The wide receiver class in the 2021 NFL Draft is absolutely ridiculous. Even if you do not include Kyle Pitts in this — and, let’s face it, you probably should, because he should not be possible — there are a bunch of dudes who have the potential to be All-Pro pass catchers at the next level.
DeVonta Smith won the dang Heisman Trophy and will bring a mentality that every NFL coach dreams of. Jaylen Waddle is a human joystick who has the ability to make extremely fast defensive players look slow. Ja’Marr Chase plays like he is offended at the thought of defensive backs trying to check him, and as a result, he wants to punish them. Rashod Bateman is a technically sound bully who would have a shot at being the first receiver off the board in most years. He will be, at best, fourth this year.
All of these dudes will be really good. A handful of others will, likewise, be very good. Today, we’d like to follow our site-wide philosophy of “NFL teams should draft good college players” and highlight one such player: Purdue receiver Rondale Moore.
There may not be a funnier athlete in this Draft than Moore, which is saying something, because it includes a 6’3, 246 pound linebacker who runs a 4.39. The former Boilermaker introduced himself to the collective college football conscious before he ever played a game. A four-star prospect listed at 5’8.5 and 174 pounds, Moore — who didn’t enroll early, meaning he didn’t get a winter/spring session in a college strength and conditioning program — did this in the offseason leading up to his freshman campaign.
According to 247Sports, Moore enrolled at Purdue on June 11, 2018. He then did this on July 20 of the same year. He has long possessed a crazy work ethic and boasts freakish athletic ability — at his Pro Day earlier this year, Moore ran a 4.29 second 40-yard dash and mixed in a 42.5 inch vertical leap. It’s how he’s able to be a giant on the field despite being measured at 5’7 and 180 pounds, which are, to be clear, legitimate concerns as he makes the jump to the next level.
The thing with Moore, though, is that he’s realized something: It does not matter how big or small you are if no one can lay a hand on you. Moore shouldered a pretty big load when he was healthy (big caveat!) for the Boilermakers: 178 receptions, 1,915 yards, 14 receiving touchdowns; 30 carries for 248 yards and three scores; 42 kick returns for 813 yards; 17 punt returns for 118 yards. Purdue kept finding ways to get the football into his hands and he found ways to make things happen. The downside to this, of course, is how much of that production came when he was a true freshman. Behold:
Moore’s sophomore campaign was over after September due to a hamstring injury, then a lingering lower body injury held him out until November as a junior. He played very, very well when he was on the field both seasons, but getting on the field and staying on the field were issues that his future NFL team will have to manage carefully. The good news, relatively speaking, is that those teams will be able to pick and choose when they use him, while Purdue liked to run the “give the ball to Rondale” offense.
Now, in fairness to the Boilermakers, giving him the football oftentimes works out extremely well. The game that always gets mentioned was Moore dragging the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes through hell in a 49-20 win when he was a true freshman. That team finished the year 13-1, won the Rose Bowl, and finished the year ranked third. They were helpless against Moore, who touched the ball 18 times for 252 total yards and a pair of touchdowns.
To highlight one moment from this game, watch this:
Moore’s ability to lower his shoulder and use that sturdy base to bowl through guys makes him different from other undersized jitterbug receivers like, say, Tavon Austin or K.J. Hamler. This is an archetype of receiver that is usually sensational in the open field and can shake opponents when they are in 1-on-1 situations but go down pretty easily when you can wrap them up.
That’s not the case when it comes to Moore. He’s strong enough that one guy isn’t always enough to take him down, but like others in this archetype, he has a whole lot of shake to him to make guys look silly.
— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) September 7, 2019
Purdue tried to get Moore the ball in just about any way possible, which was understandable, but sometimes that meant getting him the ball when he’s not moving or is working back to the line of scrimmage — like on a bubble screen — which is not the best way to use his skill set (an example: the first clip here). But when they had him working on the move or downhill, it was an entirely different story. Take this play when Moore is lined up in the slot and runs a slant. The pre-snap motion by his running back tricked the defense into giving him space to run into, he gets the ball on the move, and he’s able to use his speed, strength, and balance to add another seven yards onto this gain.
This is the stuff I love with him. Moore is by no means a perfect player — he’s not a super refined route runner, although I put that more on Purdue’s offense not really needing to drill that stuff into him and think he’ll be able to learn it all pretty quickly, and his tape includes some drops that seem to be the result of him thinking of what he’s going to do before he pulls the ball in. But Moore’s ability to do stuff when he has a head of steam or he finds a pocket of space is special, no matter how he comes about it.
“As a player, what makes me dangerous is my versatility,” Moore told Ty Dunne. “I think it gives defensive coordinators a lot of problems because I can line up in a lot of different spots and succeed in all of them. I think that really makes me hard to guard and hard to prepare for. I have a lot of tools in my toolbox that enable me to go out there and make plays, whether that be running past you, making you miss, I’m really instinctive out there. There are a lot of different things that make me elusive on the field.”
In an era when NFL teams are looking for gamebreakers, Moore legitimately is one, and even though he’s not a WR1 at the next level, a smart franchise will bring him in and find ways to get him the football in space. Good things will happen as a result.