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Fantasy Football Crossroads: Terry McLaurin vs. DJ Moore

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Elite talents at the position and never-ending poor quarterback play?

Yeah, you can say that DJ Moore and Terry McLaurin have plenty in common.

 

It is what makes this debate very interesting for fantasy football. Entering the season, both wideouts will (once again) be playing alongside new quarterbacks. But which wide receiver should be on your radar in fantasy drafts?

DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers

DJ Moore FTN Fantasy Player BioThe Case for Moore

Make no mistake — DJ Moore is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. 

After a modest rookie campaign in 2018, Moore has now eclipsed the 1,100-yard mark in each of his last three seasons, finishing as the WR16, WR25 and WR18 during that span. In 2021, Moore saw tremendous volume, ranking sixth among all receivers with 162 targets. But when you dive deeper into it, you’ll realize that he was truly the focal point of the Panthers passing game, especially with Christian McCaffrey sidelined. Per the FTN Fantasy advanced receiving stats, only four players in the NFL saw more first-read targets than Moore’s 143 last season — Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Diontae Johnson and Justin Jefferson. He also saw a whopping 35% of Carolina’s first-read targets this past season, which actually tied with Adams and Jefferson for the league-lead. Moore also ranked sixth in receptions share (26%), fourth in receiving yards share (32%), third in air yards share (40%) and third in end zone target share (45%). His volume wasn’t just good. It was absolutely elite. And when Moore gets the football in his hands, he’s dangerous, ranking top-10 in yards after the catch per reception back in 2020. Moore has clearly established himself as one of the 12 best wide receivers in football and he’s done it despite playing in poor situations.

DJ Moore 2022 Fantasy Football Crossroads

It is no secret that Moore has had to deal with some pretty below-average quarterback play throughout his career. Last season, 72% of Moore’s targets were deemed catchable, the 15th-lowest rate among all wideouts with at least 70 targets. And in 2020, just 61% of his targets were deemed catchable, the fourth-lowest rate in all of football. Just 70.2% of the passes by Carolina quarterbacks last season were on target, which would have been the sixth-lowest rate among quarterbacks with 100 or more dropbacks if you combined all three signal callers. Entering the 2022 season, perhaps things will get better for Moore after the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield. While his numbers last year weren’t great, keep in mind Mayfield played through a partially torn labrum for most of the year, while also dealing with foot and leg injuries. Where Mayfield can really help Moore is in the touchdown department, as his 4.8% touchdown rate is much higher than Sam Darnold’s 3.3% clip. And don’t forget that back in 2020 (when Mayfield was healthy), he tossed 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry posted a line of 83/1,174/6 back in 2019, helping him finish as the WR12 in fantasy. This move could help, especially if the Panthers are sustaining more drives. In 2021, Carolina averaged the third-fewest yards (26.0) and eighth-fewest plays (5.8) per drive, while only the Lions, Jaguars, Giants and Texans averaged fewer red zone trips per game (2.8). And while Moore hasn’t ranked among the elite in terms of overall end zone targets, he has, however, dominated his team’s end zone targets.

The Case Against Moore

While expecting an uptick in touchdown receptions is logical this season, it is certainly no guarantee, especially since touchdowns can be so tough to predict. But that is honestly the only case I can make against Moore, who has ranked inside the top-10 in receiving yards in each of the last three seasons but has yet to surpass four touchdowns in a single season. If Moore can get up to six or seven touchdowns this season, he’ll be a no-brainer top-10 fantasy wide receiver. 

 

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders

Terry McLaurin FTN Fantasy Player BioThe Case for McLaurin

Like Moore, you can make the case that Terry McLaurin is already one of the elite receivers in the game today. And there are honestly many similarities between McLaurin and Moore, which makes this debate so intriguing. After bursting onto the scene with 919 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, McLaurin has now posted consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns, despite also having to deal with spotty and inconsistent quarterback play. This past season, McLaurin was constantly gaining separation, only for Washington quarterbacks to either airmail the ball out of bounds or underthrow it, forcing him to make crazy adjustments. Just 71.5% of Taylor Heinicke’s passes were deemed on target last season, the seventh-lowest rate among quarterbacks with 100 dropbacks. No player in the NFL saw more contested targets than McLaurin this past season (41), though he still hauled in 22 of those targets for a league-lead in terms of contested catches. 

Terry McLaurin 2022 Fantasy Football Crossroads

McLaurin has proven he can win at all levels of the field, especially down the field. Among qualified wideouts last season, McLaurin’s 13.9-yard average depth of target ranked 15th, while his 33 deep targets were the fourth-most in football. 42% of Washington’s air yards went McLaurin’s way, the second-highest rate in the league. Entering the 2022 campaign, McLaurin will have the best quarterback of his career in Carson Wentz, who has certainly had his ups and downs, but his deep ball is light years better than any signal caller Washington has had lately. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts last season, Wentz ranked ninth in deep completion rate (42.6%). And he certainly won’t be afraid to force targets McLaurin’s direction — Michael Pittman, who played alongside Wentz in Indianapolis last year, saw the eighth-most contested targets among all receivers (29). Pittman ultimately finished as the WR17 in PPR formats last season, and, in my opinion, McLaurin is a better player and in an offense that won’t be as run-centric as the Colts.

The Case Against McLaurin

While it hasn’t been as extreme as Moore, McLaurin has also struggled to find the end zone a little bit. After scoring seven touchdowns as a rookie, he’s only scored nine over the last two seasons combined. He’s also seen a total of 17 end zone targets during that span, which is not what you want to see from an elite level wide receiver. Perhaps that changes in 2022.

The Verdict: DJ Moore, but close

This is an extremely tough call, especially considering both receivers are immensely talented and in similar situations. Both Moore and McLaurin have underwhelmed in the touchdown department, and both are also entering the season playing alongside a new quarterback. However, I feel a little bit safer about projecting Moore’s volume on a consistent basis, especially after Washington added Jahan Dotson in this year’s draft. Both receivers are top-12 talents in this league and if the quarterback play is finally improved, we could be looking at career seasons. 

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