FI­NAL DAY

Packer Plus - - News - Ryan Wood

Three wide re­ceivers, punter, long snap­per high­light picks

Green Bay – It’s the job interview of a life­time, the start­ing line of the NFL com­bine’s 40-yard dash, and J’Mon Moore doesn’t feel right. His align­ment is off. His sprinter’s stance is wob­bly.

Moore gets a bad jump. His first few steps are slow, and he never catches up. When he throt­tles down 40 yards later, the stop­watch shows two num­bers he’s never seen to­gether side by side: 4.6. As in a 4.6 sec­onds. “I had never ran 4.6 in my life,” he said. In the time it takes for a punt to land, weeks of prepa­ra­tion felt wasted. Never mind his back-to-back 1,000 yard sea­sons at Mis­souri. Moore knew that 4.6 had the power to stain his draft stock. For a re­ceiver hop­ing to be drafted, 4.6 is a scar­let let­ter.

But if Moore showed noth­ing else in col­lege, it’s that he can han­dle ad­ver­sity. “I’m a player,” Moore ex­plained, “who def­i­nitely knows how to re­spond when I’m be­ing tested.” Did it early in his ca­reer when he ar­rived on cam­pus ex­pect­ing to catch passes, only to be handed a red­shirt. Did it af­ter tem­po­rar­ily los­ing his start­ing job as a ju­nior.

This is his ca­reer pat­tern: When J’Mon Moore’s path goes side­ways, he finds a way to course cor­rect.

“When I ran that at the com­bine,” Moore said, “I ac­tu­ally was glad that I did be­cause not only did it put a fire un­der­neath me that I needed, but it just made me go that much harder at the com­bine for the rest of the day. So I ran 4.6, I know I don’t run 4.6. I come out and play fast. I know I can run. So me run­ning 4.6, that’s fine. I had to bite that bul­let, and I had to move on.”

The Green Bay Pack­ers drafted Moore with their first pick Satur­day, No. 133 over­all in the fourth round, in part be­cause of how he moved on from what could have been a dis­as­trous job interview.

They drafted him be­cause when he toed the 40-yard dash start line at his pro day, Moore was ready. He ran a 4.49-sec- ond 40 that day, a time Pack­ers col­lege scout­ing di­rec­tor Jon-Eric Sul­li­van con­firmed Satur­day. It was the ath­leti­cism Moore showed at other phases dur­ing the com­bine — his 38-inch ver­ti­cal leap ranked fourth among re­ceivers — and also the speed he flashed on film.

“Be­cause he plays fast on tape,” Sul­li­van said. “Forty times are great, and ob­vi­ously we all covet speed. But when you watch him play the game on film, there’s never a time when you say, ‘Well, this guy looks like he can’t run.’ It’s ac­tu­ally quite the op­po­site.

“I was sur­prised that he only ran 4.49.”

Moore was among three re­ceivers the Pack­ers drafted Satur­day, sim­i­lar to last year when they took a trio of run­ning backs af­ter the third round. The hope, per­haps, is to find a No. 2 re­ceiver who can even­tu­ally re­place Jordy Nel­son, who they re­leased ear­lier this off-sea­son.

Ever since, gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst has searched for Nel­son’s re­place­ment. It started in free agency, where the Pack­ers were close to sign­ing Allen Robin­son. Gutekunst took that search to the draft’s third day. Af­ter Moore, the Pack­ers drafted South Florida’s Mar­quez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth round (No. 174 over­all) and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth (No. 207).

Moore never doubted he’d get drafted. He ar­rived at Mis­souri with thoughts of Sun­day af­ter­noon on his mind. “He’s al­ways seen him­self as an NFL guy,” long­time Mis­souri re­ceiver coach Andy Hill said. His path to the league was a lit­tle more indirect.

De­ter­mined to max­i­mize ev­ery re­cep­tion in his first year as a starter, Moore de­vel­oped a nasty habit of not watch­ing

the foot­ball through the catch. Be­fore it hit his hands, Moore’s eyes of­ten were al­ready turned up­field.

“It was mostly fo­cus drops,” Hill said, “in a sense that he was try­ing to do some­thing with the ball be­fore he caught it. He was try­ing to make a big play. Some­times, it’s just great to take a 14-yard curl route, ver­sus try­ing to score ev­ery time you get it.”

Hill said Moore dropped 12 passes as a ju­nior. Against 62 catches, his 5-to-1 ra­tio was well be­low the 15-to-1 stan­dard Mis­souri sets for re­ceivers. He lost his start­ing job against South Carolina in 2016, stay­ing on the side­line through the open­ing possession.

In his next three games, Moore caught 23 passes for 407 yards and two touch­downs.

“Your job as a re­ceiver is to catch the ball,” Moore said. “You might have a few drops here and there. But me los­ing my start­ing spot to that, I’m a com­peti­tor and I don’t re­ally get too emo­tional when it’s com­pe­ti­tion within the room. I like com­pe­ti­tion. So when I lost my job be­cause I had a few drops, that made me get more into it. I didn’t hang my head or give up or hurt my feel­ings be­cause I felt like coach turned his back on me.

“Coach is go­ing to play who­ever he feels like is go­ing to make plays. So all I did was con­tinue to go hard. I went harder mak­ing plays. When I got my op­por­tu­nity, I had to prove to him again that I’m go­ing to catch the ball and make plays, which was fine with me. I don’t mind do­ing that. So it hum­bled me, def­i­nitely, and I’m glad it was some­thing I went through. Some play­ers don’t know how to bounce back from that, and I’m one of them.”

Hill said Moore’s strug­gles with drops dis­ap­peared as a se­nior. He was more re­li­able catch­ing the foot­ball, and more ef­fi­cient with his pro­duc­tion.

Moore said he needed to learn how to “hum­ble my eyes,” tak­ing the sure catch over the big play. He be­lieves high­lights can come nat­u­rally, with­out con­stantly search­ing for them. The Pack­ers can see big plays in his fu­ture, too.

On film, he’s shown the speed to pick up a lot of yards.

“He plays fast,” col­lege scout­ing di­rec­tor Jon-Eric Sul­li­van said. “I think we had him at 4.49 at his pro day. When you watch him come off the ball, he can close space, close the cush­ion. He’s got a re­ally nat­u­ral, pretty gait. We were not con­cerned with his play speed at all, and when he ran that 4.49 at his pro day that kind of so­lid­i­fied what we saw on film.”

DENNY MED­LEY / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

For­mer Mis­souri wide re­ceiver J'Mon Moore didn’t run fast at the com­bine, but his ath­leti­cism and abil­ity to han­dle ad­ver­sity is part of the rea­son the Pack­ers drafted him.

DENNY MED­LEY / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

There are ques­tions about J'Mon Moore’s abil­ity to run past de­fend­ers, but Packer scouts are satisfied with his game speed.

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