The University of Alabama has been a pipeline to the NFL in recent years, producing quality talent on both offense and defense under coach Nick Saban. In particular, the defensive talent has been tremendous. Every year, multiple players are selected in the first round of the draft from Alabama’s defense alone. Linebacker is a position that has churned out recent early-round selections like Rolando McClain, Courtney Upshaw, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson, and Rashaan Evans to name a few. We will see the next big name in that long list of Alabama linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft with Dylan Moses.
Moses is another great inside linebacker produced by Saban for the Tide defense. After sitting out the 2019 season due to a knee injury, Moses is back to revitalize this Alabama linebacker corps and cement himself as a top-10 NFL Draft choice. Below I will take a look at the many characteristics that make Moses such an intriguing player to watch in 2020 and the road he has traveled to get here. This Crimson Tide team should be elite again this season, but they will be looking for leadership on this young roster.
Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses sought after from the start
Moses, the soon to be redshirt junior, has been in high demand from the start, even before his career started in Tuscaloosa. The talented linebacker starred at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida where he became a five-star prep recruit according to Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports. Moses racked up 116 tackles and two sacks during his senior high school season. As one of the top players in the country, he committed to play college football at Alabama before the 2017 season.
Moses caught the eye of legendary coach Saban right away, as he earned two starts in 11 games as a freshman in 2017. He managed to rack up 30 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, a pick, and a forced fumble during those games. His first bout with the injury bug popped up before the team’s appearance in the College Football Playoff. Moses suffered a broken foot in a team practice following their November 25th Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. He would not return in the 2017 season.
Despite the disappointing setback, Moses returned with a vengeance in 2018. His return was a significant point of optimism and excitement for the Tide defense that season. Even though his time in the lineup was cut short in 2017, Moses’ impact was evident and indicative of a young player on the cusp of stardom. As an encore, Moses showed his extreme versatility and played inside and outside linebacker for the Tide in 2018.
The sophomore phenom was all over the field as he recorded 86 tackles, including ten for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass deflection, and a forced fumble. He was extraordinarily impactful and a serious difference-maker for this front seven. Moses was named a Butkus Award finalist for his efforts, while also racking up second-team All-SEC and second-team All-American honors. He proved to be a real bright spot on this Alabama defense and had the look of an early first-round pick as he headed into his junior season.
Setback to a major comeback
Tragedy struck again in 2019 as Moses’ junior season began the same way his freshman campaign ended, with a season-ending injury. This time, Moses suffered an ACL tear in practice that would sideline him for all of 2019. This knee injury was yet another disappointing break for the all-star college defender and would ultimately put his NFL dreams on hold for another year, at least.
The player that coach Saban first offered as a high school freshman is back for the 2020 season and ready to stake a claim as the top player in the SEC. Bleacher Report reported in December that Moses decided before the January 20th deadline to forgo the 2020 NFL Draft and return to school for the upcoming college season. The official word came from Moses’ Instagram page, where he displayed the following message.
#Alabama jr. ILB Dylan Moses announces he’s forgoing early entry in the NFL and returning to #Alabama next season. Moses, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury 2 weeks before the start of the regular season, will be a redshirt junior in 2020. pic.twitter.com/yQzB2x8JyG
— Alex Byington (@_AlexByington) December 31, 2019
Despite two season-ending injuries, Moses is an elite talent and arguably the top linebacker prospect available for the 2021 NFL Draft. I previously discussed Moses before the 2019 season as one of my top-25 players in the SEC.
At that time, I ranked Moses ninth overall, and he will be in a similar spot entering this upcoming college season. He is a sideline-to-sideline player with defensive back speed as a linebacker. Moses also reads plays quickly and reacts with warped speed due to his freakish athleticism and burst. Take a look below as he reads the screen against Louisville and chases down the receiver from behind.
The chase down by Dylan Moses tho… pic.twitter.com/SS2hTr8Iru
— Alabama Crimson Tide | BamaInsider.com (@bamainsider) September 4, 2018
2021 NFL Draft and comparison
While it may be an obvious comparison, the player that Moses favors the most in the NFL is Jets’ star, C.J. Mosley. The former Alabama stud previously played for the Baltimore Ravens and signed a significant, multi-year deal with the Jets before the 2019 season. Mosley is perhaps the rangiest linebacker in football and scans the field very quickly to make plays. Because of his excellent range, Mosley can drop back into coverage and consistently affect the passing game by getting into lanes and disrupting wide receivers, just like an elite safety or slot corner would do.
I expect Moses to time a little faster in the position drills and the 40-yard dash than Mosley. He is extremely quick and should make an immediate impact in the NFL, just as Mosley did during his rookie year in Baltimore. That season, Mosley started all 16 games and recorded 133 total tackles, three sacks, and eight pass deflections. He has been a consistent performer, which earned him praise as the top middle linebacker in football, according to Hall-of-Fame linebacker, Ray Lewis.
Those rookie year numbers for Mosley are the ceiling for Moses, which makes him such a sought after and valuable commodity. The two Alabama counterparts at linebacker, Mosley (6’2″, 232lbs) and Moses (6’3″, 235 lbs), also share similar size coming out of Alabama. On the negative side, both players have dealt with multiple injuries during their careers, so like Mosley, Moses will need to prove he can stay healthy. If he can do that and produce the numbers he is capable of in 2020, Moses will be a no-brainer as a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter.