The 'effortless' summer of Denarius Moore

Will Denarius Moore's training camp success carry over into the regular season? Kyle Terada/US Presswire

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Campbell knew the Oakland Raiders had a draft steal before the team’s coaching staff did.

A month after the Raiders took the intriguing, but perhaps inconsistent, Denarius Moore in the fifth round of the draft, he quickly drew attention from his new quarterback at a player-organized camp in Georgia during the lockout. As soon as he started throwing passes to his assembled receivers, Campbell wanted to know more about Moore, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound Tennessee product.

“He immediately caught my eye,” Campbell said this week. “I said ‘we need to get some plays for this kid.’ From the first day, it was effortless for him.”

Moore has been the story of Oakland’s camp. He went from being a late-round project with long-term possibilities to a player who looks ready to help the team right away. There is a chance he will start for Oakland in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at Denver in the second half of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” doubleheader. If Moore is not starting for the Silver and Black early in the season, he will certainly be in the top of part of the Raiders’ receiving rotation.

The Raiders are going to ride Moore until he proves him he was a training-camp fluke. There’s a growing sense that will never happen.

“He’s been tremendous,” Oakland coach Hue Jackson said. “He belongs.”

Moore has impressed the Raiders with his top-notch hands and his crisp route-running ability. He opened eyes early in camp by making every possible catch. Then, it happened on a daily basis. Local reporters have written that Moore is often the best player on the practice field, regardless of position. Now it is a major happening in practice if Moore actually drops a pass.

More importantly, the preseason has not proven to be too much for Moore. Performing well in camp is one thing. Doing it against other first-string defenses is another. Moore has made an impact in all three of Oakland’s preseason games.

“The game isn’t too big for him,” Campbell said. “He’s been just as good in games as he has in practice. Again, the word that comes up most to me is 'effortless.’ He’s just so smooth for a rookie.”

I watched Moore closely last week against New Orleans. He looks like a complete player. He ran perfect routes and was active in the run game, delivering some nice blocks, which is not always a given for a young receiver. He looked like a complete, confident player.

Oakland’s potential for fast success is ironic. The team gave Darrius Heyward-Bey $23 million guaranteed when it drafted him with the No. 7 overall pick in 2009. Heyward-Bey has yet to develop and is in danger of falling behind this potential draft mega-steal.

So how does a talent like Moore slip all the way to the fifth round?

Moore was inconsistent at Tennessee. He had two 200-yard-plus games, but there were games in which he didn’t make an impact. Still, he averaged 20.9 yards per catch on 47 catches last season and finished strong.

Scouts Inc. gave him a sixth-round grade. In Mel Kiper’s draft book, he rated Moore as the 20th best prospect at receiver. NFL teams clearly agreed with those assessments, and he lasted all the way until the No. 148 overall pick.

“A lot of times success depends on the fit and I like this fit,” Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc, said. “He is a Raider-like receiver. He fits the system. It doesn’t surprise me that he is having success. He has great hands and he runs good routes. There have been questions about consistency and the tightness with the way he runs and questions about his toughness, but we looked at him as a guy with big potential. Sometimes, it just happens quickly.”

Added Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “There were things that he did very well, so I can see why the team is excited about him. The question has and will be can he do it on a regular basis.”

Of course, we won’t know that answer until Moore plays in the regular season, but, so far, he is on our radar and that’s not always the case for a fifth-round pick. Moore, a soft-spoken player who had a reputation at Tennessee as being coachable and a good teammate, deserves credit for not allowing his preseason success to get to his head. He is simply going out to practice each day with improvement on his mind.

“Coaches say I’m doing a good job, players say I’m doing a good job,” Moore said. “So, I guess I’m fitting in pretty well with the team right now.”

Actually, Denarius, you’ve fit in since May.