If you were to attend a Jets training camp practice with no knowledge of who was who on the field, no names on the jerseys, no idea which player is making $15 million a year and which ones are undrafted guys trying to make the team, there would be one player who jumped out at you no matter how little you knew about football.
The question that you would ask would be, “Who is No. 8?”
That would be Elijah Moore, the Jets’ do-everything rookie wide receiver who makes plays every day in training camp and might end up being the franchise’s best draft choice in years.
Is it premature to put him in Canton, as Bill Parcells might say? Yes, but it is hard not to think about the possibilities when you watch Moore make spectacular catches every day in practice. He catches everything thrown to him. If fellow rookie Zach Wilson puts the ball behind him, he adjusts. If it is out in front of him, he lays out to get it.
His ability is obvious. You can feel his speed as he races by other NFL players. His route running is precise and his hands are sticky. It was these traits that made the Jets fall in love during the predraft process. Jets scout Alonzo Dotson called Moore’s pro day at Ole Miss one of the best he has ever been to.
But the Jets have learned there is more to love about Moore than just his raw talent. Since he has been with the team, the coaches have loved Moore’s work ethic and the way he carries himself. Moore acts more like a 10-year veteran than a player who has yet to play in an NFL game.
“He really wants to get better, he wants all of it,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “He wants all the information, he wants everything he can get on the grass. I think that’s more of a testament to the character more than it is his play and what’s being asked of him, because they’re all being asked of the same thing. He’s special, in that regard.”
Moore will be on display on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium as the Jets conduct their annual Green & White Practice. It will be the first time for many fans to lay their eyes on Moore and see what all the hype is about.
You can bet on he and Wilson connecting for at least one “wow” moment as they get used to their new home office.
The Jets drafted Moore with the No. 34 overall pick, shocked that he was still available. They considered taking him with their second first-round pick at 23 before trading up to grab guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. When Moore was available in the second round, there was jubilation in the draft room.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas told Moore that they were sweating it out, hoping the Jaguars would not take him with the first pick in the second round. When Saleh was handed the phone to talk to Moore, his jubilation poured out of him.
“Elijah, let’s go man,” Saleh screamed as he slapped the table in front of him.
“We were pretty darn excited when he dropped,” Saleh said this week. “He was a serious conversation at 23 if he had gotten there. Obviously, we had moved up to go get Vera-Tucker. If you would’ve said that we would of came away with those three plus Michael Carter in the fourth round, I would’ve asked you what you were smoking.”
The Moore selection could snap a streak of terrible draft choices at wide receiver for the Jets. You have to go back to Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 to find a receiver chosen by the Jets who made a Pro Bowl with the team.
They also have made a habit of whiffing on receviers in the second round. Reggie Rembert, Ryan Yarborough, Alex Van Dyke, Stephen Hill and Devin Smith all failed with the Jets (the jury is out on 2020 second-rounder Denzel Mims).
During their predraft meeting discussing Moore, assistant general manager Rex Hogan said, “I think this kid is the total package for us.”
So far, that has been prophetic.
It’s still early, but Jets fans deserve some hope and Moore has delivered some early in training camp. He now brings the show to East Rutherford for what could be the first of many shows he puts on there.