The passing game for the New Orleans Saints was handcuffed for most of the 2020 season when All-Pro WR Michael Thomas injured an ankle during the opening week of the season. Thomas missed nine games with the injury and was just a shadow of his record-breaking self.
With Thomas set to return and join RB Alvin Kamara to form one of the league's most lethal receiving combinations, New Orleans must turn back to supplying complementary weapons around them. The Saints released veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders this offseason in a salary cap move. They also moved on from tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill.
Second-year Adam Trautman will move into a starting role at tight end. Bigger things are also expected from young wideouts Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway, along with veteran receiver Tre'Quan Smith. With a new quarterback, likely Jameis Winston, taking over the reins from retired Drew Brees, the team might look to add even more weapons through the draft.
Remember that Thomas was picked up with a second round pick, from Big 10 power Ohio State in 2016. Perhaps the Saints look back to the conference for another playmaker, possibly with an eye towards the alma mater of their former franchise quarterback.
RONDALE MOORE, WIDE RECEIVER (PURDUE)
5’7” 180-Lbs (Pro Day 40m = 4.29)
NFL.com Comparison (Lance Zierlein):
Tyler Lockett (Seahawks)
After winning the 2017 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year while at Louisville Trinity High School, Moore chose Purdue over his original commitment to Texas. He was a consensus All-American choice as a freshman, leading the Big 10 with 1,258 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on an FBS high 114 receptions. Moore was also among the Big 10 leaders in both punt and kickoff returns while adding 213 rushing yards and 2 scores on the ground.
Moore continued his productive play in the first part of the 2019 season, catching 29 passes for 387 yards and 2 touchdowns over the first four games. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sidelined him for the rest of that season. After initially opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, he changed his mind to play in the abbreviated Big 10 schedule.
Moore caught 35 passes for 270 yards and added 32 yards rushing and a score despite playing in just three games in 2020, getting named All-conference honorable mention. He finished his career at Purdue with 178 receptions for 1,915 yards and 14 touchdowns in 20 games played, adding 3 more rushing scores and averaging nearly 20 yards per kick return.
Moore's size and history of hamstring injuries will keep him out of the 1st round, but he has proven elite playmaking ability. His explosive Pro Day (4.29 40-time and 42.5” vertical leap) alleviates some concern over his height.
He could still be overwhelmed by bigger cornerbacks in press coverage, especially with his route running inexperience. That inexperience has also hindered him when a play breaks down, when he must work his way back to his quarterback better.
Don't be fooled by Moore's lack of height. He’s a physical player who battles on every play and plays with great strength that contradicts his size. Moore is deadly in the open field with the ball in his hands. He has lightening speed to take it the distance in an instant and the running skills of a top kick returner, but also the power to battle for extra yards after contact.
Moore can run the entire route tree and disguises routes well despite his inexperience. He has an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage and the elusiveness to escape press coverage. His football IQ allows him to diagnose defenses quickly, making him a valuable weapon on option routes.
Moore’s open field instincts make him a scoring threat on short throws and WR screens, a valuable tool in the New Orleans offense. He operates in traffic well through the intermediate zones and has the combative nature to win contested throws.
Rondale Moore doesn't have the prototypical size of a usual wideout in Sean Payton's offense. He plays fast and powerful and could be used multiple ways by a multi-faceted attack like the Saints. Smaller receivers like Deonte Harris, Lance Moore, and Brandin Cooks have had with New Orleans. Like slightly bigger but similar playing styles of NFL stars Tyreek Hill and Brandon Aiyuk, Rondale Moore could be an instant threat for an NFL franchise.