29 Apr 2007
The Patriots have traded for Randy Moss, giving Tom Brady by far the best receiver he has ever had and thereby guaranteeing the Patriots another Super Bowl. That will be the conventional wisdom. The only red flag anyone will bring up is Moss' character concerns and whether he can fit into the team-first approach in New England. Maybe that is an issue (it certainly was not for Corey Dillon), but a bigger problem could be that Moss is simply no longer a star player.
Similarity scores are a tool used to compare people to other players who posted similar numbers over a given time period. A quick glance at Moss’ three-year similarity profile is very alarming. (Only yards are listed, but similarity scores also compare catches, touchdowns, and average yards per catch.)
|Name||Years||Yards Yr 1-3||Age +1||G+1 Rec +1 Yds+1|
|Randy Moss||2004-06||767, 1005, 553||30|
|Drew Pearson||1978-80||714, 1026, 568||30||16 38 614|
|Sam McCullum||1979-81||739, 874, 567||30||11* 21* 233*|
|James Jett||1997-99||804, 882, 552||30||11 20 356|
|Freddie Solomon||1980-82||658, 969, 574*||30||13 31 662|
|Ernie Jones||1990-92||724, 957, 559||29||10 5 56|
|Nat Moore||1978-80||645, 840, 564||30||13 26 452|
|Andre Rison||1996-98||593, 1092, 542||32||15 21 218|
|Webster Slaughter||1990-92||847, 906, 486||29||14 77 904|
|Antonio Freeman||2000-02||912, 818, 600||31||15 14 141|
|Ernest Givins||1992-94||787, 887, 521||31||9 29 280|
|Earnest Gray||1982-84||757*, 1139, 529||28||5 3 22|
The names on the left are acceptable if not overly impressive. More than half had over 7,000 receiving yards in their careers. The numbers on the right represent the next season after the similar three-year stretch. Only one receiver had more than 700 yards. Some of these guys had another good season or two in them, but nobody hit 1,000 yards again.
Moss is a different animal because his peak was higher even than that of Rison or Pearson. The other assumption is that Oakland was too dysfunctional and/or Moss just did not care when he was there. Of course, both Doug Gabriel and Ronald Curry had success there the past two seasons. Gabriel, of course, came to the Patriots a season ago and struggled to get consistent playing time. Curry was actually the leading receiver on the Raiders last season.
Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, and Kerry Collins put together, but this is not Randy Moss circa 2002. Moss averaged a whopping 3.3 catches per game last season, and the once-dominant red zone threat scored just three touchdowns. He caught only 43% of the passes intended for him.
The truth is that Moss is 30 years old, and he always relied heavily on his speed to get open. He is not the physical receiver that Terrell Owens is or the master route-runner that Marvin Harrison is. As such, he is not likely to age gracefully. Moss always played better on the fast track of the Metrodome, so it is good news that the Patriots have gotten rid of their grass field.
Is Randy Moss an upgrade for the Patriots? Certainly, considering Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell were their second and third receivers. But, I think it is a little wishful thinking to see Moss as a better player than Deion Branch at this point in his career. Branch also would have been a better fit opposite Donte Stallworth than the supposed deep threat in Moss. Only once in the last six years has Moss caught 60% of the passes intended for him, a total Branch hit three times in four years with the Patriots.
Still, the Patriots have to be commended for playing this one right. They unloaded Branch at the height of his value for a first-round pick and now steal Moss away for a fourth-round pick. His reputation alone should help open up the running game and get Stallworth one-on-one opportunities. Moss could easily get his 900 yards, 65 catches, and eight touchdowns, and the Patriots will be a better team. Just don't expect Moss to team with Brady to form some sort of Montana-Rice unstoppable duo.
Our offseason Four Downs series continues with a division-by-division look at each team's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. Does anyone in the NFC South have any pass rushers? Well, the Bucs might, but they still need more players to catch the ball.