Going into the 2023 season, second-year wide receiver Skyy Moore is garnering a great deal of attention. I wrote about this in my "10 Biggest Questions" series.
Moore's development this year is as important as any young player for the Chiefs. With wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman leaving in free agency, combined with an injury to Kadarius Toney, Moore is going to be asked to be the Chiefs' No. 1 wide receiver going into the season — a cosmic leap from the role he had in his rookie season. Moore was only a rotational wide receiver last year, putting up 22 catches and 250 yards with zero touchdowns. Going from where he was as a rookie to a bonafide No. 1 wideout would be one of the greater leaps we've seen recently from a second-year receiver.
When I was thinking about how big of a leap, the Chiefs were asking of Moore, my mind first went to NFL history.
What does the typical jump for a wide receiver look like from their rookie season to their second season? What were some of the bigger leaps we've seen in recent NFL history, and what could they tell us about Moore?
To answer this, I looked at every wide receiver from 2010-21 who had a catch in their first two years and analyzed their multi-year data to find some comparisons for what Moore could be in Year 2. First, let's talk about what an average Year 2 season looks like.
An average second-year jump
When I started this, I wanted to find a way to best measure productivity for receivers year over year. In order to do this, I created a metric called productivity score. It's similar to how PPR fantasy football is scored, but I gave a .5 points per target, one point per reception, .1 point per yard and six points for every touchdown scored. This way, we get a simple measure of how a wide receiver produced in a season. For example, Moore's productivity score his first year was 63, while someone like Tyreek Hill had a score of 196.8 his rookie year.
Next, I wanted to look at what average productivity looked like for wide receivers over their first two seasons. To start, I looked at anyone who had a minimum productivity score of 25 as a rookie and what their scores looked like over that stretch. After that, I eliminated anyone who played less than 10 games in either season to eliminate as many injury outliers as possible. Looking at that information, here's what the average productivity score looks like for a wide receiver over their first two seasons.
- Year 1: 136.1
- Year 2: 174.82
This jump might not be significant, but I wanted more context as it relates to Moore. Depending on the team context and what role a receiver plays, the more productivity they might see in a season. For example, New Orleans Saints star receiver Michael Thomas had a 319.2 productivity score his first season but only had an increase to 328 in his second season. It wasn't that Thomas didn't improve, but he was so productive relative to most rookies that he wasn't going to see a massive jump in production in his second year.
To account for this, I wanted to look at players who had similar productivity to Moore as a rookie and see their productivity over their first two seasons. So, I decided to look at receivers who had a productivity score between 40 and 100 in their rookie years. The reason for that range is that I wanted to account for differences in touchdowns and yards since those are heavily weighted in this formula. I also used the same 10-game minimum to account for injuries, and here's what the average productivity score looked like.
- Year 1: 65.38
- Year 2: 117.77
So, wide receivers who met that criteria as rookies saw an average 80.1% increase in productivity scores from their first season to their second season.
Finally, I wanted to find some potential comparisons for Moore, so I made this graph of everyone that met the criteria I mentioned above. To me, two comparisons stand out for what Moore's second year could look like — both statistically and in terms of career arc.
First, let's talk about a player who also played with a Hall of Fame quarterback.
My favorite comparison for what Moore could be in Year 2 is Cobb.
Cobb was drafted in 2011 by the Green Bay Packers in the second round, only to find himself stuck in a deep wide receiver rotation. In 2011, the Packers had Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, and James Jones all in their primes alongside an older-yet-still-productive Donald Driver.
However, circumstances went favorably for Cobb in his second year. Nelson would only play 12 games, and Jennings eight in 2012, and Driver was no longer producing that season. Cobb went from 25 catches on 31 targets, 375 yards, and one touchdown in his rookie year to 80 catches on 104 targets, 954 yards and eight touchdowns in his second year.
Similar to Cobb, Moore was stuck in a deep wide receiver rotation his rookie year, which limited his productivity. Once opportunities opened in his second year, however, Cobb excelled. Cobb and Moore also get the benefit of playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback at the apex of their powers and thrive from the slot primarily. Moore reminds me a lot of Cobb in terms of playstyle, and I could see Moore matching his stats this season.
This comparison doesn't work as well as Cobb, but it is a more recent comparison to look at. Jefferson was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, only to be stuck in a deep rotation of wide receivers.
Jefferson entered the NFL as the Rams' fourth wide receiver — behind Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Josh Reynolds. Jefferson also had to share targets with tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. His Year 1 stats were remarkably similar to Moore's, posting 19 catches on 31 targets for 220 yards and one touchdown.
In his second year, Jefferson received more opportunities and broke out. Woods got hurt in the middle of the season, and while the Rams would sign Odell Beckham Jr, he took a while to integrate. Jefferson was the Rams' second weapon behind Kupp for a long time, and his stats saw a major bump because of this. Jefferson would go on to produce 50 catches on 89 targets for 802 yards and six touchdowns in 2021.
Similar to Moore, Jefferson got to work alongside a Hall of Fame weapon — Kupp for the Rams and Travis Kelce for the Chiefs — and benefitted off that attention. Personally, I liked Moore as a prospect more than Jefferson, but I could see a lower-end outcome for Moore's Year 2 looking like Jefferson, which would be totally acceptable and still a massive leap from his rookie year.
The bottom line
Expecting Moore to go from where he was in his rookie season to a Pro Bowl season is lofty. That jump has happened before with players like Antonio Brown and Victor Cruz. However, those guys were outliers compared to what the growth curve looks like for most wide receivers.
That said, Moore taking a leap into being a similar player like Cobb or Jefferson would be enormous for the Chiefs offense. Neither of those guys was the best receiver on their teams at their peak, but both complemented an elite weapon well enough in conjunction with a Hall of Fame quarterback to keep their offenses hyper-efficient.
Since the Chiefs have both of those things with Mahomes and Kelce, Moore taking that jump would mean their offense will still be one of the best in the NFL. If Moore can make that jump, my worry about the Chiefs' weapons outside of Kelce will go down significantly, but he's going to have to prove that he's capable of that jump this season.