UPDATE (9/1/12 @ 9:24): Multiple sources saying the Seattle Seahawks have picked up Evan Moore off of waivers after unexpectedly releasing Kellen Winslow
According to some of the major sports websites there were a number of “surprising” cut. In reality, there is nothing surprising about teams letting go of veteran players that are past their prime, ask Terrell Owens, who prior to this year, had been released by the Cowboys, Bengals, Bills, and Eagles. I don’t find anything spectacular about a second or third string quarterback getting cut, so players like Seneca Wallace, who has been leeching off the Browns for years, and Kellen Clemens are not surprising. What is surprising is when young talented players are released, player who have shown some ability to play on the big stage, but for some reason, do not make the cut. There were only a handful of players that I would suggest fall into that category, and only one that should catch the scent of the St. Louis Rams.
This is clearly the year of raw talent for the Rams. In the past, we have attempted to grab up veteran players from around the NFL in hopes that they would make a lasting impact on the team, but most of those have failed to come to fruition, whether that be because of injury or, simply, lack of progression at the position (think Na’il Diggs, Ben Leber, Mike Sims-Walker, Ovie Mughelli, Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood…). This year the St. Louis Rams are the youngest team in the NFL, with a roster full of unproven players at a majority of the “skill” positions on offense and defense. More that likely, we will have two rookie wide receivers sharing time with Danny Amendola and Steve Smith, and will likely see a defensive secondary fitted with a rookie starter (Jenkins), a rookie nickelback (Johnson), and more rookies coming in during dime coverage, with UDFA safeties Daniels and McLeod both making the cut. However, unlike past years, the Rams currently have one of the premier coaching staffs, assembles wholly by Jeff Fisher himself, who have the experience in the NFL to take the raw talent players possess and extract the most from each player on the field.
So what does this all mean? I means that the Rams have an opportunity after Friday’s cuts to pick up players oozing with talent and harvest their potential. Of all of the names dropped from teams yesterday, there is one in particular that was especially intriguing… Cleveland Brown TE Evan Moore.
Coming out of college, Moore was a decorated two-sport athlete at Stanford, playing both basketball and football for the university. Following his sophomore year, Moore dropped basketball to focus more on his football game, which proved to be a good decision after being picked up in the NFL. Moore was an outside receiver at Stanford, with impressive speed and quickness for his 6’7 tall, 235 lbs. frame. Scouts and draft analysts praised Moore as possessing,
"“Athletic build with room for additional growth. … Surprising initial quickness off the snap. … Can defeat press coverage with his athleticism, but relies more on his size and strength. … Obvious advantage due to his size in jump-ball situations and times his leaps well. … Reliable hands. … Tough. Will take the big hit and make the catch. … Flashes the body control to be a quality route-runner”"
However, he was knocked pretty hard by his lack of experience at the tight end position and, stemming from that lack of experience, margin talents as an inline blocker. This contributed to Moore going undrafted in 2008, being scooped up by the Green Bay Packers in 2008, and moving to the Cleveland Browns from 2009-until yesterday. In the NFL, Moore was expected moved to tight end, but has plagued throughout his career by supreme talent ahead of him on the depth chart. The Browns have, if nothing else, always had the cream-of-the-crop at the tight end positions, first with Kellen Winslow for a number of years, as well as more recently with Benjamin Watson, who they acquired from the New England Patriots a couple of seasons ago. Coaching in the past has not allowed Moore to see much action on the field, which has caused some whispers of bias among the coaches in the rotation. However, even ex-Rams OC, and current Browns HC Pat Shurmur could not dismiss Moore’s abilities, claiming, “Evan Moore flashes out here of course because he’s tall and he can catch the football,” said the coach. “Evan’s like every player. They have to just improve their total game…”
He has been given very little opportunity to perform, but when he has been on the field, he is pretty impressive. In his three years in Cleveland, Moore accumulated 62 receptions for 804 yards, a 13.0 yards per catch average, and 5 touchdowns. Although he has only “started” in 8 total games, Moore’s numbers have improved each season as he has been given more of an opportunity to play. However, those raw numbers are hard to analyze, since they cannot merely be compared to other tight ends around the league. His totals will clearly be inferior to the Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowskis of the NFL, simply because of the discrepancy in playing time. Pro Football Focus helps solve that problem through a statistic they deemed Yards Per Route Run. This statistic counterbalances the amount of playing time, in terms of number of times a tight end went out for a pass, with the number of receptions and receiving yards. This number essentially shows the receiving value of a tight end for every passing play they are on the field. These numbers are based off a culmination of the tight ends performance over the past three season.
Unsurprisingly, the top ten is filled with notable, well-recognized tight ends from around the league,
Jimmy Graham (1st), NO, 1815 yards, 786 routes, 2.31 YPR
Rob Gronkowski (2nd), NE, 2196 yards, 961, routes, 2.29 YPR
Antonio Gates (3rd), SD, 2810 yards, 1321 routes, 2.13 YPR
Vernon Davis (5th), SF, 2963 yards, 1499 routes, 1.98 YPR
Jason Witten (6th), DAL, 3099 yards, 1665 routes, 1.86 YPR
Aaron Hernandez (7th), NE, 1665 yards, 902 routes, 1.85 YPR
Evan Moore (10th), CLE, 804 yards, 453 routes, 1.77 YPR
Dallas Clark (11th), IND/TB, 1985 yards, 1122 routes, 1.77 YPR
Owen Daniels (15th), HOU, 1722 yards, 1022 routes, 1.68 YPR
PPF also looked at a number of other uncommon statistics on tight ends from last season, evaluating all players on their performance through week 15 of the regular season, including drop rate, yards per route run, and pass blocking efficiency. These categories are a good representation of a tight ends overall abilities, aside from the quantity of yards that they can pick up. In terms of drop rate, there were 6 players on the list that had not missed a “catchable” ball that was thrown to them. The Top 3 names on this list were Tony Gonzalez with 35 receptions on 50 targets, Owen Daniels 30 receptions on 44 targets, and Evan Moore with 16 receptions on 23 targets. On the other end of that list are the players with the highest drop rates. Some of the notable names in the Bottom 5 are…
1) St. Louis Rams’ Lance Kenricks with 13 receptions on 18 catchable targets, but with 5 drops, for a 27.78 drop rate
2) Cleveland Browns’, Moore’s ex-competition, Ben Watson with 23 receptions on 27 catchable targets, but with 4 drops, for a 14.81 drop rate.
Moore was also, as would be excepted from the previous analysis, in the Top 10 in 2011 in yards per route. He ran 80 routes that results in 153 receiving yards, which was good enough for 9th in the league with 1.91 YPR. On the other end of that spectrum is Lance Kendricks, who only managed 175 yards on 146 routes for 1.20 YPR. To put that in context, starter Kendricks ended with a meager 22 yard advantage over Moore, who was listed at the third tight end on the depth chart for most of last season.
The point is not to single out Kendricks, who had a pretty serious case of “rookie-itis” last season. However, it is notable that we currently have four tight ends on the roster, and none that have proven they can stay healthy or catch the ball during the regular season. In fact, Milligan and McNeill are primarily blocking tight ends, which leaves only Kenricks and Hoomanawanui as receiving options for Bradford. For an offense that is supposed to be based around the ground and pound of the running back and the short quick passing game, a tight end who can catch the ball is essential. For all of Moore’s deficiencies as a blocker, he makes up with his pure size, strength, and ability to catch the ball. Pass blocking in a tight end is overrated in the current NFL, with the new trend being towards more receiver-like players, such as San Francisc’s Vernon Davis. Davis was rated in the bottom 3 last season in terms of pass blocking efficiency, but remains one of the upper tier tight ends in the NFL. What value isn’t overrated? The ability to cause a mismatch against a slow, 4.8 40 linebacker or against a 5’11 defensive back in the red zone. If nothing else, we should bring him to compete and learn under Coach Boudreau. Just think of having a Lance Kendrick, Michael Hoomanawanui, and an Evan Moore on the team for Bradford!
UPDATE: Check out his response to a Cleveland fan who recently bought his jersey