Cookie Ridley can relate to what reporters who’ve covered the youngest of her three children experienced during DJ Moore’s three years at Maryland. No matter what Moore did, including a record-setting 2017 season, he made barely a peep.
“He’s not a big talker,” Ridley said recently. “That’s always been him.”
In that way, Moore is an anomaly for the position he plays, and what he accomplished as a Terp. It’s Moore's feet and hands — not his mouth — that led to where he finds himself as the 2018 NFL draft approaches.
Considered by most to be a second- or even third-round pick after catching a single-season school-record 80 passes and being named the Big Ten’s top receiver as a junior, Moore will likely be a first-round choice when the draft begins Thursday night.
Moore could become the first Maryland player drafted in the opening round since wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (McDonogh) was picked seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. Moore is expected to be among several players with local connections drafted.
After initially being told by the NFL college advisory committee to return to College Park for his senior year, Moore saw his stock rise dramatically at the league’s scouting combine last month in Indianapolis and appears to still be rising after private team workouts.
Albie Crosby, who coached Moore his last three years at Imhotep Institute Charter High in Philadelphia, isn’t surprised.
“If he thinks you’re doubting him, he loves to prove you wrong,” Crosby said last week.
Moore’s 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis of 4.43 seconds was faster than the 4.46 of former Terp and current Minnesota Viking Stefon Diggs. Moore’s 11-foot broad jump ranked him first among receivers, and his 39.5-inch vertical leap placed him second. The 210-pound Moore even measured an inch taller — at 6 feet — than he did at Maryland.
After choosing to just catch passes on Maryland's pro day in late March, Moore said: “The tape speaks for itself right now. Just coming out here and going through the private workouts, just showing them that I work hard. People can tell that I work hard, but they actually can go to see it."
That has always been the way Moore approached the game.
“Everything is extremely businesslike,” Crosby said. “I think people respect him that much more because he’s not overly flashy.”
Yet Crosby thought that might have hurt Moore during the recruiting process in high school. College coaches would tell Crosby they liked Moore, but always seemed to back off at the last minute. West Virginia and Duke were among the schools that lost interest.
Crosby once brought 15 of his players to a 7-on-7 camp in northern New Jersey. Rutgers offered 11 of Moore's teammates, but not Moore. Penn State was interested in Moore as a defensive back, not as a wide receiver.
“People say they don’t want the flashy kid, the selfish kid, but I think at times they want that kid,” Crosby said. “The kid that’s not flashy, the kid that’s not selfish is the kid that gets overlooked.”
Finally after receiving offers from Temple and Maryland, Moore chose the Terps because of the relationship he had built with former recruiting coordinator John Dunn and then-wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell.
Considering that McCardell is now in the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who pick No. 29, Crosby said, “I don’t think he’ll get out of the first round.”
There now seems to be a consensus that Moore will go in the opening round — the only question remaining is how high.
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network listed Moore on Friday as the top receiver in the draft, ahead of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Teams selecting ahead of the Jaguars appear to be interested, too. Crosby has heard from several teams, including the Ravens, who pick No. 16.
“DJ is a productive player; he’s a good player,” Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said recently.
What stood out to Hortiz in watching Moore last season was his consistency, despite having to play with multiple quarterbacks against defenses geared to stopping him. By the end of the first quarter of the third game, the Terps were down to No. 3 passer Max Bortenschlager.
“It’s an impressive thing, playing with three different quarterbacks [four, with walk-on Ryan Brand starting a game],” Hortiz said. “That’s a difficult thing to adjust to, and he was productive throughout the season and was consistent and was helping those guys out.”
Hortiz said the evaluation of Moore hasn’t changed through the combine and then Moore’s pro day.
“He’s holding his water,” Hortiz said. “He’s doing a good job at each level, in terms of getting ready for the draft.”
As he did while going through a revolving door at quarterback throughout his entire college career — there were eight in all — Moore has gone about his business quietly.
“They [NFL] scouts kind of joke about it, but they’re serious. They said it’s impressive that I had eight different quarterbacks throughout my three years here. I guess it’s a plus,” Moore said at his pro day.
Asked whether that is a point of pride for him, Moore said: “Nah, it’s not [that he’s] proud because people were getting injured. It’s just the next-man-up mentality.”
ESPN college football and NFL draft analyst Todd McShay had Moore going No. 24 to the Carolina Panthers early last week, then moved him up to No. 16 to the Ravens on Friday.
McShay said on a teleconference last week that the former Maryland receiver has a lot of attributes to transition from college to the pros.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that when he has the ball in his hands, he’s really productive,” McShay said of Moore, who averaged nearly 14 yards a reception over his career.
McShay called Moore “more fluid than twitchy," and added that despite his obvious athleticism, there’s a cerebral quality to the way Moore plays his position.
“I saw a really good craftiness, savvy as a route-runner. He knows how to set up defensive backs and get the most out of the area, to set the defensive back up before his breaks,” McShay said.
While Moore doesn’t have the height of some of the game’s elite receivers, the combination of his strength and speed after making catches is going to help him.
“He’s not going to break a lot of ankles, but he accelerates up the field quickly, transitions quickly,” McShay said. “He’ll make that first guy miss, and if he catches a crease, he’s got the speed to go a little bit and he also will go 3 or 4 yards on some run-after-catches because of how strong he is as a runner.”
Never one to complain, even when it appeared he wasn’t getting some obvious pass-interference calls last season, Moore is looking forward to showing what he did the past three years in relative obscurity on a much bigger, brighter stage.
“It shows that no matter what goes on, like on the field with the [team’s] record and all that, you still get a chance to go to the league and put on a show and show your skill set at the highest level that you can,” Moore said.
OTHER PLAYERS WITH LOCAL TIES WHO COULD GET DRAFTED
Micah Kiser (Gilman), Virginia, linebacker, 6 feet 2, 240 pounds: Led the Atlantic Coast Conference in tackles his last three seasons. Projection: late-second to late-third round.
Ian Thomas (Digital Harbor), Indiana, tight end, 6-4, 259: Started only as a senior after spending two years in junior college. Caught two touchdown passes in season opener against Ohio State. Projection: third round.
JC Jackson, Maryland, cornerback, 6-1, 193: After a rough start to his college career at Florida — including a shoulder injury and being charged with, then later acquitted of four felony robbery charges — Jackson had two solid years with the Terps. Projection: fifth round.
Ezekiel Turner (Glen Burnie), Washington, safety, 6-2, 214: Though in the shadows of other draft-eligible Huskies, including defensive lineman Vita Vea and wide receiver Dante Pettis, Turner turned heads at his pro day with his 40-yard-dash time and strength. Projection: seventh round.