Historically, the Alabama Crimson Tide has developed and produced quality inside linebackers who have successfully transitioned into the National Football League. C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower, Reggie Ragland, and the late Derrick Thomas headline the list of players who have played a significant role for Alabama and impacted the teams they played for in the NFL. Dylan Moses has a chance to be the next Crimson Tide LB primed for the NFL Draft spotlight in 2021.
Dylan Moses NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 240 pounds
Current Year: Senior
Dylan Moses was an elite high school recruit, and now he’s arguably an elite NFL Draft prospect. Depending on where you were looking back in 2017 during the recruitment process, you’d see him ranked all over the top 50 recruits nationally. Moses’ story is a unique one. He became a national storyline in just eighth grade when both Louisiana State and Alabama offered him scholarships, which eventually resulted in the young phenom landing on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.
The relationship Moses has with his father, at least on the surface, is reminiscent of the relationship Earl and Tiger Woods had. Both young boys were no-nonsense, shy, and driven to succeed in their sport, and their fathers were the drill sergeants, demanding perfection in their collective pursuit of greatness.
“You can say, ‘You drill your son too hard, and all you want is for him to go to college and then go to the pros.’ Okay, I’m guilty. Yeah, I’m hard on him. Yeah, schools want to offer him a free ride to college. It sounds like the worst thing ever, doesn’t it?”
His father, Edward, wasn’t shy about it. It can be a dangerous arrangement for familial structures, with many young men and women burning out from the sport they excelled in at such a young age. But Dylan remained laser-focused throughout his time in high school, repeating an early-morning workout consisting of 400 pushups, 800 sit-ups, 10 minutes of jump rope, and a one-mile run before the sun rose near his home in Baton Rouge.
Moses was well on his way to being a first-round pick in the NFL Draft in 2019 before his season ended abruptly before ever taking a snap. In late August, during a practice, Moses tore his ACL, forcing him to miss his entire junior year.
Dylan Moses continues looking apprehensive in 63-3 rout of Kentucky
Moses is still one of the freakiest athletes in the country, but he isn’t playing like it. There are multiple factors working against his film, and none of them are physical. He’s the leader of the defense, and as the MIKE linebacker, he is responsible for getting all 11 defenders in the correct spot and assignment pre-snap. This is part of the reason he’s a tick late getting to his individual keys when the ball is snapped.
But it also seems as though the prior knee injury has affected his mentality. He is still an aggressive player, but his aggressiveness is calculated. Far too often he’s playing passive when contact is approaching low, as if, understandably, he’s trying to avoid getting rolled over on than finishing the play.
As a chase and tackle linebacker, he’s still everything you could want, and he showed that in the few coverage snaps he received against Kentucky. He’s playing out of position compared to what he’ll be asked to do in the NFL and what he did in his breakout 2018 season, making the NFL Draft evaluation for Dylan Moses more convoluted than others.
NFL Draft prospect Dylan Moses still rusty in up and down performance against Mississippi State
Moses still isn’t playing at the same level he was during his outstanding sophomore season in 2018. In 2018, he looked like he could possibly be the best player in the draft class. But in 2020, the explosive athlete that played like a prodded bull in a rodeo is now looking indecisive and even passive at times. His ability to process things is still obviously there, particularly in the run game, but his trigger is less abrupt than it was before his knee injury.
Moses was more effective as a pass rusher against the Bulldogs. He was more willing to engage at speed and multiple times used speed-to-power to collapse the pocket on K.J. Costello. He was also crucial when tasked at running games on the defensive line, opening up gaps for looping edge rushers to penetrate through.
His abilities in coverage still swing from good to bad. His interception in the end zone helped keep the Mississippi State offense from scoring a point in the game. In the play, he triggered on the shallow crossing route run by the number one receiver. The receiver does a nice job freestyling and hitting the seam, where he’s able to find some separation from Moses.
However, the young linebacker does a fantastic job of reacting to the football and snatching it from the grips of the receiver. But there was also an occasion where Moses and the APEX (slot) defender had a miscommunication and allowed the number two receiver to hit the seam. Moses should have carried that route vertically.
Open field tackling was good in coverage, coming forward and finishing out leaking backs catching passes out of the backfield, but he was crossed up by the backup quarterback after Costello went down with an injury. He’ll need to clean things up going forward as a tackler, given his athletic ability.
The Tennessee offense proved difficult for Dylan Moses to handle
The heavy amount of misdirection and fast-paced play from the Tennessee offense made things difficult for the linebacker. Add on to that the propensity for one or more blockers getting to the second level and you have a recipe for disaster defensively. Things fortunately never got that bad for the entire defense, but Moses and his partner-in-crime Christian Harris had a difficult day. Moses, like most modern-day linebackers, is more of a finesse player than an old school bang around physical specimen.
Far too often on Saturday, you could see a number in the 60s or 70s escorting Moses off the broadcast screen downfield as the play developed around them. They were able to accomplish this because Moses very rarely was able to get a clean read of the situation because of the amount of eye candy going every which direction in Tennessee’s split-zone heavy attack.
However, when things slowed down for Moses he still showed exactly why he’s so highly touted as a prospect. There were a few times throughout the contest that he was able to key and click downhill quickly, leaving climbing blockers helpless as he darted in front of their face. Consistency for Moses is going to be the key for him throughout the rest of the SEC schedule and presumably into the playoffs.
Dylan Moses showed his versatility in turnaround defensive performance against Georgia
It’s easy to look at the points and yards given up by the Crimson Tide defense and wonder what is wrong, but the fact is they’re still very much doing their job. Even though they’re surrendering about 10 points more per game than in years past, they’re still outscoring opponents by more than two scores.
Playing defense in the SEC doesn’t look like it once did, either. These teams aren’t simply taking a snap from under center and turning around to hand the ball off 60% of the time. And even Georgia played some uptempo, no-huddle offense in the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 win.
And Moses is showcasing every skill imaginable for the NFL Draft evaluators. This Alabama team is not one with many desirable pass rushers, so Nick Saban is forced to use his linebackers and bring more than four players to even sniff pressure. That means you’ll see Moses both in more complex coverage assignments and blitzing more often than he did as a sophomore.
As impressive an athlete as Moses is, his few snaps as the APEX defender in coverage have ended in the wide receiver he’s responsible for running free. Moses is more of a darting horizontal player that flourishes when he can use his athleticism proactively instead of reactively attempting to stick on receivers’ hips. Against tight ends, the results weren’t nearly as damning.
He still flies around the field, but the senior playing a vast majority of the snaps doesn’t come in and pop the way he did as a sophomore. He plays with more control. He’s not flying around the field like his pants are on fire because he knows he has to conserve some energy because he’s no longer a rotational player.
But he made multiple plays in this game that no other linebacker in the country, to include Penn State’s Micah Parsons, is making. There was a particular run inside the tackles where Moses was on a called blitz. He looped outside of the defensive line and curled around the left tackle and defensive end, tilting down the line and diving at full extension and reaching the back who could only fall forward for a yard or two. That’s what you get with Moses. As his bio states on Alabama’s site, he’s a “freak athlete.”
Moses finished the game with 10 tackles, five solo, and a sack.
Dylan Moses’ first four games of 2020 didn’t answer many questions
We still haven’t seen him take the next step as a down-to-down linebacker taking on blocks, stacking and shedding, and seeing through blockers to read and react. Hopefully, that comfortability comes back as the season progresses because he needs to show growth in that area if he wants to be drafted ahead of PSU’s Parsons.
He only has produced one pass defense in his two-plus years at Alabama, with one interception coming as a freshman. It can be maddening watching college linebackers in coverage given the more modern responsibilities of matched-based zones. Still, with the athleticism Moses possesses, he should be more of a factor in coverage. However, broadcast angles can and will lie to you, so coming to any concrete conclusions should be given the cold shoulder until the coaches’ tape has been cycled through.
His pass-rush chops are well documented, and hopefully, the production follows throughout 2020 if he keeps getting the opportunities he’s been afforded so far. His jitterbug-style agility and downhill acceleration should make him a menace coming off the edge, although interior blitzes bear no fruit given his high pad level.
Hopefully, as the season progresses, the game’s speed will begin to slow down a bit more for Moses, and he can continue to do it play in and play out while remaining a menace.
Dylan Moses’s best fits in the NFL leading up to draft
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Any coach will look at that type of athlete and salivate. No matter his role in the NFL, this young man should find success, even as a MIKE that has to come downhill and take on a ton of blocks. His work ethic is well documented. He’s going to figure it all out.
But an ideal fit would be in defenses running more multiple fronts, using linebackers as rushers. He could be a legitimate outside linebacker that puts on some more weight and becomes a pass rusher that drops back into coverage occasionally, but that would feel like a waste of his sideline to sideline ability.
Some of the documented teams who may need a potential plug and play linebacker are the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Las Vegas Raiders, who could have interest in Moses throughout the draft process.
Utilize Pro Football Network’s Mock Draft Simulator to see where a player like Dylan Moses may end up in 2021.