As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Next up: The Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders' selected their best receiving prospect since Tim Brown in the fifth round of last year's draft. The team takes a mid-to-late round flier on a speedster almost every year, and the strategy seems to have finally paid off with Denarius Moore.
Moore didn't play like a rookie. He showed more of the attributes that make a pro receiver successful in one year than Darrius Heyward-Bey has in four seasons. The numbers were great (618 receiving yards, six touchdowns in 13 games), but his skill set is better.
Saying Moore is the best wideout pick for Oakland since Brown really is damning with faint praise. The next best option: Jerry Porter. Moore can have a much better career.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. believes Moore will be the best receiver in the AFC West within three years. It's not that crazy of a notion.
Moore's acrobatic catches are eye-opening. He has the speed to bust out four catches over 45 yards; the versatility to play in the slot; and the open-field moves to return punts.
I went back to watch three games on NFL Game Rewind from Moore (how's that for a plug?) and was impressed by more than the highlights:
- Moore's speed forces defenses to play off him. He has the fluid route-running ability to take advantage over the middle and especially on out routes. It's not just about the deep ball.
- But Moore's closing speed is special. On his 78-yard catch against the San Diego Chargers, Moore was about three yards in front of Quentin Jammer. He passed Jammer and caught the ball in stride when it came back to Earth. That same speed caught Kansas City Chiefs safety Reshard Langford flat-footed. He underestimated how quickly Moore could get past him.
- On one end-around, Moore made the entire San Diego Chargers defense swing and miss. He turned an eight-yard loss into a four-yard gain. He has great after-the-catch ability.
- Moore can make the tough catches with quality cornerbacks like Brandon Flowers draped all over him. That's what will separate Moore this season.
He has the big-play ability to hurt you on any play, but again, it's not just about the long ball.