The Carolina Panthers sent the Chicago Bears a haul for the rights to their quarterback of choice. Included in this haul is wide receiver DJ Moore. Now playing with the best quarterback of his career, how does this impact Moore’s fantasy football value for 2023? Can he finally post a WR1 season?
Fantasy Impact of DJ Moore Trade From Panthers to Bears
Ever since the Houston Texans gifted the Bears with the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears were widely expected to trade it. On Friday, March 10, it happened.
The Panthers sent the Bears picks 9 and 61 in this year’s draft, as well as a 2024 first and a 2025 second, along with Moore, in exchange for the first overall pick. One of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, or perhaps even Anthony Richardson will be Carolina’s next starting quarterback.
For fantasy football gamers, the most impactful piece of this deal is Moore. No wide receiver has been hampered more by poor quarterback play than the Panthers’ former WR1.
In Chicago, Moore is obviously the Bears’ new WR1. Darnell Mooney occupied that role last season, but he was always miscast as the top option. He is far better suited for a WR2 role, which is what he will now play.
Moore Is Far Better for Fields Than Fields Is for Moore
It’s always exciting to see trades go down and fantasy-relevant players change teams. Especially in March, as it gives us something to think and talk about.
While there’s no denying Justin Fields is an upgrade on the trio of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and PJ Walker, I don’t see this as a boon for Moore’s fantasy value. In 2018, Moore averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game, finishing as the overall WR14. Since then, he hasn’t finished above WR23. Last season, he was the WR33, averaging 11.7 ppg.
I’m confident Moore will do better than that in 2023 with Fields. However, I don’t see him suddenly reaching that 16.0 ppg threshold that signifies WR1-level production. Chicago led the NFL in neutral-game-script run rate and overall run rate in 2022. Of course, Fields’ elite rushing ability contributes to that, but that’s not exactly going away.
Moore should see an elite target share in Chicago. He was at 27.7% last season. There’s no reason he can’t be in the 27-30% range this season. The problem is that target share is likely going to be one of the smallest pies in the league.
Last season, Fields averaged just 21.2 pass attempts per game. Even if we were to bump him up to 25 attempts and give Moore a 30% target share — both on the higher end of their respective range of outcomes — that’s still just 7.5 targets per game. Over the course of a 17-game season, Moore wouldn’t even get to 130 targets.
If we apply Moore’s career averages to 130 targets, we’d be looking at a season of about 78 catches, 1,115 yards, and four touchdowns. That’s only 12.5 ppg. Even if Moore is a bit more efficient or scores a couple more touchdowns, he’s probably not going much above 13.0 ppg.
On the other hand, Moore provides Fields with something he’s never had — a legit alpha WR1. Despite my pessimism about Moore as a fantasy player, there’s no denying his NFL talent.
Fields relied heavily on his rushing last season, leading all quarterbacks with 1,143 rushing yards. Despite not even being remotely fantasy relevant for the first month of the season, Fields averaged 20.5 ppg, finishing as the overall QB5. He posted back-to-back 40-point weeks in Weeks 9 and 10.
Fields has already proven he can be an elite fantasy quarterback without any offensive weapons. He was doing this with Mooney as his WR1 and a medley of rotational WR4/5 guys behind him. Going from one of Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, or Dante Pettis in two-receiver sets to having Moore is a massive improvement.
There’s still a lot of growing Fields can do as a passer. He completed just 60.4% of his passes last season and averaged just 149.5 passing yards per game. Moore’s presence has me more confident Fields can progress through the air. Combined with his elite mobility, I feel better about Fields’ fantasy value now than I did before he had Moore as his WR1.
As for Moore, I will not be bullish on him this season. He’ll certainly have his games, but there will be plenty of weeks where he catches two of four targets for 30 yards.
I also suspect the consensus amongst fantasy gamers will be that this is a plus for Moore’s value, thus inflating his ADP. He will most likely be valued as a top 18-ish WR, possibly even higher. However, I do not anticipate having him inside my top 24. As a result, unless I’m very wrong about his cost in 2023 fantasy drafts, I likely won’t be recommending anyone draft Moore.
Fantasy Impact of the DJ Moore Trade on Other Players
Fields and Moore are undoubtedly the two players most impacted by this move. But there are a couple of other players worth mentioning.
If I’m not interested in Moore as Fields’ WR1, then you probably deduced I want no part of Mooney as his WR2. Mooney averaged 8.5 ppg last season, with the offense largely to himself. There’s just not enough volume for Fields to support two fantasy-relevant wide receivers.
The Bears did make a midseason trade for Chase Claypool, and they paid a hefty price. I will never understand why they thought Claypool was worth a second-round pick. I would say he’s now their WR3, but I’m not even sure he wins that role. Claypool will almost certainly go undrafted in standard-sized 12-team leagues.
On the Panthers’ side of things, they’re going to have their quarterback, but they currently have nothing else. Heading into free agency, Carolina’s top three wide receivers are Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault Jr. I cannot fathom they actually go into the season with more than one of those guys forced to start in three-receiver sets.
The Panthers need a full WR corps, a running back, and a tight end. Essentially, they need an entire offense. Whoever they draft is probably going to start Week 1. I expect it will be tough sledding for their rookie starting QB. There’s a very real chance that the only fantasy-relevant Panther is whoever ends up being their RB1.