Elijah Moore’s former college head coach at Ole Miss had one simple answer for how the Jets should use him.
“I would just give the guy the ball,” Lane Kiffin told the Daily News. “He’s just really unbelievable, with a really unique special mindset about being great, which rarely happens nowadays. Every single thing in his life is about being great.”
That’s what Moore did at Ole Miss. The 5-9, 178-pound dynamo was a first-team all-SEC selection and consensus all-American in 2020 after catching 86 passes for 1,193 and eight touchdowns.
Moore is one of the new shiny toys for future franchise quarterback Zach Wilson to throw to. He was considered one of the best receiver prospects in the draft, who some predicted would go in the first round, but he fell to the Jets (second round, 34th overall pick). Kiffin expects a smooth adjustment for his former star receiver.
“Should be a very easy transition, because of his approach to the game and his pro mentality,” Kiffin said. “He should light it up.”
Moore possesses a plethora of skills, but his strongest trait is his exceptional route running. His ability to create separation through his elite quickness allows him to get in and out of brakes. Among Power 5 wide receivers since 2016, his single yards per route run average from the slot was 3.6, which was sixth according to Pro Football Focus. For context, DeVonta Smith was first at 5.6.
“What I really like, which most of the really special ones are, you can say ‘OK we’re gonna run this route’ and show someone doing it on an old cut up and they go out and they do it the first time,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin’s first year at Ole Miss was in 2020 but he knew Moore could make an impact for the Rebels. The star receiver’s movement skills and his work ethic stood out during spring practice before COVID-19 shut the school down. But once the practice resumed in August, the momentum continued.
“Watching the film the year before, seeing ‘wow, this is it. This is going to be nice,’” Kiffin said. “Had people that knew me saying ‘hey this is gonna be the next one.’”
Then Ole Miss opened up against Florida and Moore had 10 catches for 227 yards.
“Finally seeing him play in person, and just for him to light up Florida, I was ‘alright this can be a really fun season,’” Kiffin said.
Moore had additional explosive performances, like totaling 238 yards with three touchdowns against Vanderbilt. Or against South Carolina, when he had 225 yards and two scores.
Throughout Kiffin’s college coaching career he’s coached numerous eventual NFL receivers. At Alabama he coached Calvin Ridley and Amari Cooper. At USC he coached Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett.
That majority of those pass catchers were All-Americans and two won the Fred Biletnikoff Award — given to the most outstanding receiver — in Cooper and Lee. Kiffin puts Moore in the same category as those talents.
“This guy is unique,” Kiffin said, “and really was different than any of the guys we had at all the places because we never really had a true slot, smaller receiver. So, it was pretty neat.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh was excited when the club was able to draft Moore. The fit within offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur’s offense is another reason why this pairing could work.
“He’s dynamic. When he gets the ball in his hands, he becomes something different,” Saleh said after drafting Moore. “His ability to separate in routes, his ability to run the jet sweeps, get the ball in his hands and come out of the backfield, he’s extremely versatile.”
Moore could be the Jets’ version of Deebo Samuel because of his ability to create explosive plays after catches. According to PFF, Moore had 505 yards after the catch last season and was utilized all over the field, and even got some carries out the backfield.
“We just tried to always move guys, but his ability to play running back also, he’s got great vision too,” Kiffin said. “He’s got great vision as a runner, which is very unique.”
Kiffin compared Moore to former Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith,
“Smith is probably a little bigger, physically stronger,” Kiffin said. “But the way they run routes, their stop and start, almost always making the first guy miss, that was similar.”
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