When New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas suffered a serious ankle injury in the 2020 season opener, it would hamper the team's passing attack all year. Thomas, the league's most productive receiver over the previous three seasons, would miss nine games and be severely limited when he was in the lineup.
Thomas is set to return in 2021 after offseason surgery and is again expected to be one of the NFL's most dominant offensive weapons. However, the Saints will be starting a quarterback other than Drew Brees to start a season for the first time since 2005. New Orleans also moved on from some of their key contributors on the offensive side.
Wideout Emmanuel Sanders, along with tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill, were not retained because of salary cap issues. The team expects bigger production from second-year TE Adam Trautman and young wideouts Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway. Despite other more pressing team needs, the Saints may look to give their next quarterback another target in the early rounds of the draft.
Today's draft profile highlights a receiver that New Orleans has been linked to in recent mock drafts. One that could add an explosive deep element to their passing attack.
ELIJAH MOORE, WIDE RECEIVER (MISSISSIPPI)
Pro Day 40m = 4.35
NFL.com Comparison (Lance Zierlein):
Antonio Brown (Buccaneers)
After starring for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, Moore took on the challenge of SEC defenses when signing with Ole Miss. He was an immediate contributor as a true freshman, starting four games and catching 36 passes for 398 yards and two scores in 12 contests. Moore led the Rebels in receiving as a sophomore in 2019, pulling in 67 receptions for 850 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Moore opted out eight games into the 2020 season, but still earned 1st team All-American honors with a huge year. He led the nation with an average of nearly 11 receptions and over 149 yards per game, finishing with 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and 8 scores. His University of Mississippi career concluded with a school-record 189 receptions for 2,441 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Moore faced little press coverage during his college career because of his gamebreaking ability. That leads to some concern about his ability to get fast separation against bigger athletic corners, especially because of his size. His stature gives him a limited catch radius, and he’ll need to make sharper breaks at the top of his route at the next level.
Moore’s physical playing style and aggressive demeanor reminds me of a player who tormented the Saints during his playing career, former Carolina Panthers wideout Steve Smith. Not especially elusive in the open field, Moore runs with power after the catch and will fight for extra yards.
He does an excellent job of disguising his routes and can operate effectively on all three levels of a defense. More than just a deep threat, he Moore operates confidently over the middle and will fight for every reception.
Moore has a quick release off the line of scrimmage and elite short-area quickness to gain separation. He was accustomed to a heavy workload in college and has terrific durability to absorb punishment. He has terrific awareness to find the open areas in zone coverage and the toughness to hold on to the ball while taking big hits.
Elijah Moore has been projected as a slot receiver at the NFL level because of his size. His strength, combative nature, and route running skills should enable him to be a contributor from both the slot and as an outside receiver. He may not have the desired size of a prototypical New Orleans wideout, but Moore has the intensity and physical ability to be a lethal number two complement to Michael Thomas.