2023 NFL Draft Profile: Fresno State WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper
The Bulldogs wide receiver has been one of the Central Valley’s best talents in recent years. Can he stand out in a deep draft class?
The speedy Bulldog looks to make a splash in the pros.
One of the hallmarks of Jeff Tedford’s return to Fresno State has been an emphasis on keeping local talent at home and, to this point in his tenure, no one exemplifies that better than Jalen Moreno-Cropper.
A native of Parlier, California, Moreno-Cropper was the Bulldogs’ top-rated recruit in 2019 and didn’t waste a lot of time living up to the hype by starting five games as a true freshman that fall. From there, he led Fresno State in receptions and receiving yards for the next three years while establishing himself as one of the best big-play threats anywhere in the Mountain West with 37 plays of 20 or more yards from 2020 to 2022.
Now in the books as one of the most productive wide receivers in program history, Moreno-Cropper will hope to avoid a long wait at this year’s NFL Draft as a member of a well-stocked class.
Measurables (taken from Mockdraftable)
One thing that pops off of Moreno-Cropper’s tape is his versatility. In his time with the Bulldogs, he played inside and outside as a wide receiver, took the occasional fly sweep for Kalen DeBoer and Jeff Tedford, and even threw a few passes. The confidence to give him that diversity of plays comes from above-average acceleration and play speed which manifests itself in a few key ways: The Athletic’s Dane Brugler notes that Moreno Cropper is “smooth” (a term also utilized by NFL Draft Buzz and HERO Sports’ Robert Munoz) and “slippery with the ball in his hands” while NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein points to “tempo alteration” that often gives him the space to get open.
Will he consistently play as an outside receiver in the NFL? In his first two years at Fresno State, Moreno-Cropper played considerably more snaps in the slot than he did in 2022 — 220 in 2020, 394 in 2021, but just 82 last season — and considering that he’s on the smaller side of this year’s pass catcher class, teams may have divergent views of what kind of role he’d ultimately play in their offense.
Another related worry is whether he’ll have the requisite strength to beat press coverage, especially if offenses want him to run routes all over the field. In that same vein, draft analysts are split on whether that dearth of strength will affect his ability to win 50-50 balls down the field at the next level: Brugler and Zierlein are bearish on this, while others like Brentley Wiessman of The Draft Network appear more optimistic.
Fresno State has had a knack for developing wide receivers in the 21st century, with seven NFL Draft selections at the position since 2002, and Cropper offers plenty to fit right in with the likes. The biggest question is whether a team will like his potential to play outside enough to snag him before others can, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll last long on Day Three, so I’d wager he’ll be a fifth-round pick.