New York Jets Player and Coach Heap Praise on a Rookie, But It’s Not Zach Wilson
Rookie minicamp, OTAs, and mandatory minicamp are the first times NFL players, coaches, and fans get a look at a team’s draft class before training camp starts at eth end of July. During the New York Jets’ offseason practices, one rookie is garnering a lot of buzz, but it’s not No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson.
After picking BYU’s Wilson and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC in the first round, the Jets took wide receiver Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss with the second pick of the second round. If the praise out of Jets camp is any indication, the sixth WR off the board could be one of the steals of the draft.
The New York Jets selected WR Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss No. 34 overall
Moore grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He played for the storied St. Thomas Aquinas football program in high school, which has produced many NFL players, including Michael Irvin, Geno Atkins, and the Bosa brothers.
Moore excelled in high school and became an Under Armour All American, an ESPN four-star recruit, and the No. 160 prospect in the ESPN 300, according to OleMissSports.com.
The 5-foot-10 Florida native burst onto the scene at Ole Miss, making a difference as a kick returner right away. In his first start at wideout, Moore had 11 catches for 129 yards, an Ole Miss freshman single-game record for both receptions and yards.
After another solid year as a sophomore, Moore put together a historic junior year in just eight games in 2020. He set school single-season records for receptions (86), yard (1,193), and touchdowns (8). The production earned him a spot as a first-team consensus All-American.
In addition to the college stats, Moore put up impressive numbers in his draft workouts. His 17 bench press reps tied for 10th-best at the receiver position, and he had the second-best 3-cone drill time in his class. In addition, his 4.35 40-yard dash time made him the seventh-fastest player in 2021.
Early in the second round of the 2021 draft, Moore came off the board and became part of the Jets’ history-making draft class.
Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore is earning rave reviews from Zach Wilson and Mike LaFleur
Just like Moore made an impact right away moving from St. Thomas Aquinas to Ole Miss, it looks like he could have the same effect from the beginning with the Jets. Moore has already impressed in pre-training camp practices, and both his offensive coordinator and new QB have taken notice, per NewYorkJets.com.
Wilson loves that his new receiver catches his poorly-thrown balls. Also, he loves Moore’s fluidity:
Every once in a while you catch those glimpses of you throw a ball at his knees or above his head and he catches it so well and is able to transition up the field. It’s so natural for him, his ability to catch the ball and get up the field. Very smooth player.
For new Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, it’s Moore’s work ethic that stands out even more than his skills:
The cool part about Elijah is that this guy just works. I know a lot of people say that, but he puts in a lot of time, whether it be 7 in the morning, on the JUGS in the indoor, taking it to the meetings or being prepared with the scripted plays.
LaFleur summed up his relationship with Moore, saying he’s “a fun dude to coach.”
The Jets will have a new-look offense in 2021
The New York Jets revamped their offense under LaFleur and new head coach Robert Saleh for the 2021 season. In addition to trading incumbent QB Sam Darnold and drafting a new potential in Wilson, the team revamped or added to every position group on the offensive side of the ball.
Moore joins a deep and talented WR group that added coveted free agent wideout Corey Davis from the Tennessee Titans in the offseason. These two join veteran Jamison Crowder and second-year standout Denzel Mims to make up the core on the outside.
At running back, big-name, big-money Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell are gone. Instead, the team brought in Tevin Coleman from the San Francisco 49ers to join the young and talented La’Michal Perine and Ty Johnson. The group from last year is mostly intact at tight end, but they did add Tyler Kroft from the Buffalo Bills.
Upfront, 2021 No. 14 overall pick Vera-Tucker will line up next to 2020 No. 11 overall pick Mekhi Becton. Elsewhere on the line, free-agent addition Dan Feeney will compete with last season’s starters Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant.
Jets fans have to hope this upgraded offense will produce better results than the 2020 version, which finished dead last in yards gained, yards per play, and total points. If the new squad can, they may be able to lead the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference