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2021 NFL draft: Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore wins with quickness, toughness

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Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

38. Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore

5-foot-9, 180 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.92 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Electric matchup piece who routinely makes defenders miss but faces size concerns

Games watched: Arkansas (2020), Auburn (2020), Alabama (2020), Florida (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 184 nationally), Moore picked the Rebels over several blue-blood programs. He made his impact felt immediately in 2018 as a true freshman, even amid a WR group that included A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. Moore caught 36 passes for 398 yards and two TDs; ran three times for 8 yards; and returned 12 kickoffs for 222 yards and 10 punts for 34 yards in 12 games (four starts). In 2019, he stepped into a lead role, catching 67 passes for 850 yards and six TDs and a two-point conversion. Moore also returned 14 punts for 90 yards (6.4 per) and ran four times for minus-1 yard.

In 2020, Moore led all FBS players in receptions and receiving yards per game, logging a school-record 86 grabs for 1,193 yards and eight TDs and 14 rushes for 64 yards in only eight starts, earning first-team AP All-America and first-team All-SEC mention and being named a Biletnikoff Award finalist. He opted out following Ole Miss’ eighth game of the season and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Displayed elite testing times at pro day in the 40-yard dash (4.35 seconds), short shuttle (4.00), 3-cone drill (6.66 seconds) and a surprising 17 reps on the bench press. Great combination of vertical speed and horizontal quickness. Gains easy separation — extremely friendly mismatch target.

Incredible production in 2020 — averaged nearly 11 catches and 150 receiving yards per game, caught fewer than 10 passes in one contest last season and hauled in more than 85 percent of his targets vs. SEC competition. Extremely dangerous in space. Routinely makes the first man miss and racks up the YAC.

Hands are bigger than you might expect (9 3/8 inches) and very reliable — improved markedly in his catch efficiency in 2020. Will haul in darts and snatch the ball outside his target area. Doesn’t gear down after the catch when he’s hit in stride — instantly turns into a weapon with the ball in his hands.

Strong, disciplined route runner. Outstanding tempo changes and subtle head-and-shoulder fakes to cut loose from DBs. Eats up soft zones. Sells double moves extremely well — can shake and bake.

Check out this vicious slant-and-go against Alabama, where Moore gives a little head fake for the out route, rips off the slant portion and then steams downfield on the “go” portion for a 46-yard catch, even hanging onto the ball despite a targeting foul by the DB at the end of the play:

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Plays tough. Took some absolute shots from lurking safeties and more often than not held onto the ball. Competes hard and plays with a chip on his shoulder — made two tackles vs. Arkansas after INTs. Underrated strength for such a wiry frame — it gives him a chance to play outside in the NFL.

Still very young — turns 21 years old two days before the start of the 2021 NFL draft. Displayed tangible improvement with each passing season. Posted big games against the past two national champions, LSU in 2019 and Bama in 2020. Could blossom even more in the NFL — still growing as a player and might thrive in the hands of a savvy offensive coordinator.

Downside: Weighed in lighter than his listed weight of 185 at his pro day and possesses a small frame that can only pack on so much mass without losing his speed. Small catch radius — small even by slot-receiver standards and very short arms (30 1/8 inches). Lacks true explosion, which can be seen on tape and backed up by middling testing numbers in the vertical (36 inches) and broad jumps (120 inches).

Could be taxed by bigger, longer-armed corners — can’t win with speed releases every time vs. savvy NFL DBs. Relatively untested against press coverage. Might primarily be a slot in the NFL — played more as an outside receiver in 2020 but still logged fewer than 100 snaps outside in three seasons.

Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore had a really strong pro-day showing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore had a really strong pro-day showing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Not yet a well-rounded receiver — bulked up stats with a heavy diet of quick, short throws and schemed-up production. Wasn’t asked to run vertical routes consistently. Auburn made him their focus and shut him down.

Little success on handoffs — long run of 13 yards, average of 3.4 on 21 career carries. Return effectiveness was similar — 18.5-yard average on kickoffs (only did it as a freshman) and career punt-return average of 4.9 on 15 tries (with only one return longer than 15 yards). Lacks sure hands as a punt returner — three muffs over his final 11 runbacks. Had some concentration drops earlier in his career.

Guilty of some silly penalties — costly personal foul in final minutes vs. Bama to wipe out first down in a one-score game. Infamously mimicked a urinating dog after a touchdown with 4 seconds left in the 2019 Egg Bowl, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty and made the extra-point try longer. The kicker missed, and the Rebels lost.

Best-suited destination: Moore can instantly add juice to a mismatch system that uses him primarily in the slot but also outside, perhaps even in the backfield and also as a returner. He could take some time to expand his route tree and adjust to NFL corners’ physicality, but in time he profiles as an eventual WR2 with game-breaking ability.

Did you know: Moore attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), which has produced more NFL players than any other school in the country the past few years.

Player comp: Style-wise, he’s similar to Antonio Brown — will Moore ever reach that lofty ceiling? That’s hard to say.

Expected draft range: Top-50 pick

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