Wide receiver Denarius Moore had many highlight-reel plays as a rookie. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
A lot went wrong with the Oakland Raiders in 2011, but one thing went very well:
The drafting of Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore.
The Raiders took Moore in the fifth round – the 148th selection overall – and watched him emerge to make an impact in his rookie season.
The 6-footer, who weighs 195 pounds, showed breakaway speed on deep routes and punt returns and dispelled the reports from college that he had suspect hands.
Though he dealt with nagging injuries and inconsistent quarterback play, Moore caught 33 passes in 13 games for five touchdowns and averaged 18.7 yards per reception, with five of those catches for more than 40 yards.
Now Moore is being touted as one of the NFL’s breakout stars of 2012. With a year of experience, a full offseason of workouts with veteran QB Carson Palmer and a new West Coast offensive scheme under head coach Dennis Allen, Moore could blossom into one of the league’s elite receivers.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. told ESPN recently that he believes Moore will be the best receiver in the AFC West in three years. Williamson has compared Moore to the Green Bay Packers’ Greg Jennings, one of the league’s top wideouts, saying: “Their size/movement skills, their ability to hit the home run deep downfield and that they can both nickel-and-dime a defense with underneath routes.”
Williamson says Moore is “dripping with talent.”
“He is already a big-time deep threat who is very smooth and explosive with all of his movements. If/when he refines his game – and he doesn’t have a ton to do – I think he could have a similar path as Jennings, but his quarterback situation obviously isn’t as strong.”
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com says Moore is the Raiders’ best young wide receiver since the team drafted Tim Brown, and calls Moore’s acrobatic catches “eye-opening.”
Rosenthal cites Moore’s closing speed, his ability to make tough catches in traffic and his fluid routes.
He also wrote that Moore’s speed and moves can make defenses look bad.
“On one end-around (last season), Moore made the entire San Diego Chargers defense swing and miss,” wrote Rosenthal. “He turned an eight-yard loss into a four-yard gain. He has great after-the-catch ability.”
In Oakland’s recent three-day minicamp, Moore injured his hamstring on the first day, but the Raiders say he should be fine by the start of training camp later this month.
“He’s going to be fine,” Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’ll evaluate it. Usually those things take a couple of weeks or so, so we’ll see where he’s at.”
Barring injury or some other setback, Moore should soon be ready to launch his second season. According to many observers, Season No. 2 might be something to look forward to.