Drafting Panthers WR D.J. Moore Comes With Risk In Fantasy, But His Upside Is High

Drafting Panthers WR D.J. Moore Comes With Risk In Fantasy, But His Upside Is High article feature image

Sean Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: D.J. Moore

Editor's note: The following analysis was written in June, but when coupled with the latest rankings and projections in our 2021 Fantasy Draft Kit, is still valuable research for your next draft.

D.J. Moore Fantasy Rankings

These consensus rankings from Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon and are based on half PPR scoring and as of June.

Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has been a victim of subpar quarterback play for his entire career, but a new signal-caller and decreased competition for targets might be the perfect storm to help him reach his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Moore's 2020 Season

  • Games played: 15
  • Receiving: 118 targets, 66 catches, 1,193 yards, 4 TDs
  • Fantasy finishes: WR19 in PPR, WR23 in standard, WR22 in half PPR

Moore posted a strong — albeit frustrating — 2020 in light of many negative factors entering the year. The 2020 offseason began in a state of turmoil for the Panthers after firing longtime head coach Ron Rivera and parting ways with quarterback Cam Newton. Rivera was replaced by former Temple head coach Matt Rhule and Newton was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater.

In addition to the coaching and quarterback changes, the Panthers also made changes to their receiving depth chart, which already consisted of Moore and Curtis Samuel. They signed former Jets' undrafted free agent Robby Anderson, who previously played for Rhule at Temple, adding more competition for targets.
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Bridgewater was ultimately a disappointment and posted a 69.1% completion rate for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over 15 starts. He spread the ball around to his triad of receivers and pass-catching running back Mike Davis, who took on a bigger role with Christian McCaffrey sidelined for most of the year.

Moore led the pack and finished as the Panthers' top receiver in spite of receiving 13% fewer targets than Anderson. He caught 66-of-118 targets for a career-high 1,193 yards and four touchdowns over 15 games (missed Week 14) and finished as WR22 in half PPR scoring. His week-to-week performance was frustratingly unpredictable, however: He posted eight games (through Week 16) with at least eight fantasy points and six games with fewer than eight fantasy points in half PPR.

It was Moore's second consecutive 1,000-receiving yard season and he finished third in yards per catch among qualified receivers on Pro Football Reference.

Previous Fantasy Performances

Moore, 24, is a former first-team All-Big-Ten receiver from the University of Maryland. He received high marks in the broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard-dash at the 2018 NFL Combine and was selected No. 24 overall by the Panthers.

Moore appeared in all 16 games during his rookie campaign and caught 55-of-82 targets (67%) for 788 yards and two touchdowns — good enough to finish as WR40 in half PPR.

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Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore

Optimism was high for Moore entering Year 2. He was ultimately hampered by lackluster quarterback play from an injured Newton, Kyle Allen and Will Grier, who combined for a collective 60.3% completion rate for 4,135 yards, 17 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

The sophomore wideout reeled in 87-of-135 targets (64%) for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns over 15 games and finished as WR13.

Moore's 2021 Fantasy Outlook

A route exists for Moore to break out as Carolina's clear cut No. 1 option in 2021, but there will be obstacles.

Moore enters the season in a slightly stronger position on the wide receiver depth chart than in years past. The team lost Samuel during free agency and replaced him with LSU wideout Terrace Marshall Jr., who was selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Moore will compete for targets against Anderson and Marshall, who was highly regarded as a potential first-round talent, but represents less of a threat than Samuel as an untested rookie.

The quarterback position is a looming question mark heading into 2021, as the Panthers will start the year with former Jets' signal-caller Sam Darnold at the helm. Darnold, 24, is a former No. 3 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft. The USC product has posted just one season with more than 3,000 passing yards and zero seasons with 20 or more passing touchdowns since entering the league. His disappointing play has been negatively impacted by poor coaching and paucity of talent in the Jets' system.

Optimistically, Darnold can become the next post-Adam Gase glow up under a better coaching staff and surrounded by better weapons, which would in turn bolster Moore's consistency and overall fantasy value.

It is worth noting that Darnold has a preexisting relationship with Anderson, who already had a 25% target share to Moore's 21%. The pair overlapped in the Meadowlands for two seasons (2018 and 2019) and their chemistry could cannibalize some of Moore's opportunities.

How to Draft D.J. Moore

Moore enters the 2021 season opposite his third quarterback since joining the Panthers in 2018. Over that time, he has managed to post two 1,000-yard seasons in spite of suboptimal QB production, major coaching regime changes and significant competition for targets.

The Maryland product has the undeniable talent to ascend as the team's top option and an elite NFL receiver, but his situation imparts risk on his fantasy value moving forward.

Moore is currently being drafted squarely in WR2 territory, which feels appropriate. He has a relatively safe floor and high upside and has historically held slightly higher value in PPR/half PPR formats.

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