On Friday, March 10, the Chicago Bears agreed to give the Carolina Panthers the first overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft in exchange for a package of draught picks and sixth-year wide receiver D.J. Moore. This trade positions the Panthers to pursue their franchise quarterback, but Moore’s relocation to Chicago for his age-25 season has an immediate fantasy effect.
D.J. Moore’s Professional Career
D.J. Moore, a first-round choice by Carolina in the 2018 Draft, joins the Panthers at a difficult moment for a wide receiver. Cam Newton’s superpowers were fading, and Moore’s new squad was on the verge of a quarterback transitioning phase that would span the all of Moore’s time in Carolina.
Moore had 55 receptions for 788 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, ending as a fantasy WR3 on the outside looking in. Moore’s status as a target hog would only grow over the following four seasons, propelling him to the top ten in target share during the past two.
Moore’s efficiency has been above average but not exceptional. Although his greatest fantasy season occurred in 2019, his most amazing season came in 2022, when he almost equaled Tyreek Hill in every efficiency measure.
Moore has demonstrated that he can have efficiency surges, but a lack of quarterback play has hampered his fantasy productivity, as he has never finished higher than WR16 in half-PPR leagues and has only scored more than four touchdowns once. One trait that might help him generate explosive fantasy weeks is his increased ability to go deep—he ranked in the top ten in average target depth last year—which his new club enjoys.
D.J. Moore’s Role on the Bears Offense
Moore is transitioning from one run-heavy offence to another—51.5% Carolina’s passing percentage in neutral game script was the league’s fifth-lowest last season, while Chicago was not far behind at 50.2%, the league’s fourth-lowest rate. The Bears’ splits are undoubtedly impacted by Justin Fields’ propensity to run—his 160 rushes were second among quarterbacks last season—but Fields failed immensely as a thrower. In 2022, Chicago was at the bottom of the league in almost every passing measure.
Fields’ mobility, on the other hand, creates explosive plays when surrounded by the correct weapons—when he throws the ball, Fields prefers to make plays downfield. Fields tied for the fourth-highest average throw depth (9.0 yards) among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts last season by throwing deep (over 15 air yards) at the seventh-highest rate in the league.
Placing a true No. 1 with two other wide receivers who aren’t afraid to spread the field—Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool all had average target depths of more than 12 yards with the Bears last season—should enhance Fields’ passing ability. Moore, along with tight end Cole Kmet, who led the team in 2022 with a 20% target share, may not turn the Bears into one of the league’s most pass-heavy teams, but their above-average pass-catching corps and willingness to take shots could help Fields increase his efficiency and possibly even his volume.
Fantasy Football Projecting the Bears’ Passing Attack
Even when a team changes, the alphas usually stay the same (see Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and Stefon Diggs just to name a few recently.) Although Moore may not approach a 30% target share like he did the previous two years, he should remain well over 25% as the team’s obvious top receiver. With a base of 400 pass attempts (Chicago threw 377 times in 2022), we should be able to pencil in Moore for roughly 100 targets, with a maximum of 125-130.
Moore was projected as 4for4’s WR24 before to the deal, which is where he is presently being chosen in best ball leagues. Sadly for Moore, this passing game will need to improve dramatically for him to be a comfortable WR2, much alone a WR1.
There isn’t much competition for targets beyond Kmet and Mooney, thus it’s probable they both remain in their 60-70 target range as auxiliary pass-catchers go by the wayside. Kmet will be a marginal starter/streaming possibility, while Mooney will be a spot start or bye-week fill-in, and neither should be targeted in fantasy draughts.
Justin Fields is the huge winner in this transaction. His running skills catapulted him to a QB6 finish in 2022, and he is now 4for4’s QB5, the fifth signal-caller to emerge from early best ball lists. The obvious comparison is A.J. Brown to Philly last year, but the quarterback position is so strong that the overall QB1 is unlikely to be in Fields’ range of possibilities.
If things go well for Fields and the Bears, he may have a top-three fantasy season, which might propel Moore to beat his ADP if it doesn’t go up in the following weeks.
The expense of acquiring Fields as the 39th overall choice in Underdog leagues is already high, but in today’s best ball atmosphere, it’s worth the investment.
• D.J. Moore is a legitimate number-one wide receiver who can handle a large target share. He has shown top efficiency, but he has yet to find a quarterback capable of propelling him to a WR1 season. Moore moves from a run-heavy system to a passing outfit that had one of the worst passing assaults in 2022. • Usually top receivers retain exceptional target shares even after changing teams, and Moore should do the same in Chicago, commanding a 25%+ target share. Sadly, it may not translate into 100 targets, and he may struggle to be an every-week WR2 until Fields improves dramatically as a thrower.
• Moore is presently ranked as the WR24 by 4for4, which is where he is being picked in best ball leagues. Preferably, pick Moore after he has slipped beyond his ADP. Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney will almost certainly keep their jobs once Moore arrives in Chicago, but auxiliary pass-catchers will see their responsibilities shrink. Mooney (4for4 WR48) and Kmet (TE13) both have rankings that are almost identical to their current ADP. Justin Fields is the huge winner in this transaction. He is 4for4’s QB5 and current ADP’s QB5, but he now has top-three potential and should be picked as such.