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.
Moses and his dad’s tutelage
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.
Defensive continuity allowing Dylan Moses to play free
First, shoutout to ESPN for the Skycam view. It made watching the trenches much more enjoyable. Moses still doesn’t look like he did in 2018, but the playoff matchup against Notre Dame showed more improvement from the junior linebacker.
Early on with the game in reach, Moses played controlled and physical. He was consistently in the correct position to make plays and wasn’t afraid to take on blocks square. When things got to the edge, he showed his outstanding athletic ability chasing down tackles. He missed a tackle coming hard downhill at the line-of-scrimmage on one play he was left unblocked but was pretty clean outside that.
Coverage remains a struggle for Dylan Moses, limiting his NFL Draft stock. He has the athleticism to carry backs out of the backfield but doesn’t trust himself. There’s a startling impatience with him at the top of routes, and he’ll stop his feet and latch on. In zone coverage, Moses looks much improved from early in the season. He’s reading his coverage keys well and triggering quickly. There was a third and seven pass where he drove down on a slant route and forced an incompletion.
The unique problems Ohio State presents
With another strong performance against Ohio State in the national championship, Moses could rekindle some of the draft stock his play in 2020 has taken the oxygen out of. Ohio State provides a unique challenge, as long as Fields is healthy enough to use his legs as an added weapon in his arsenal.
Ohio State has a physical offensive line and two physical specimens in running backs Trey Sermon and Master Teague (assuming health) that can punish defenders while also (in Sermon’s case) catching the ball out of the backfield. Both backs can also make the first defender miss.
But the biggest opportunity for him is against the Ohio State tight end duo. Both are NFL-caliber players. And in the college football playoff, they finally decided to let them catch passes. How Moses handles his coverage responsibilities against the Buckeyes could go a long way toward helping or hurting his draft stock. Because in today’s NFL, a linebacker has to cover. Next Saturday he’ll get to prove that he can.
Moses struggles versus high-volume Florida passing attack
The Gators ended up with 30 rushing attempts on the night. However, 15 of those 30 came from quarterback Kyle Trask. The real story with Moses was the good (a little) and bad (a little more) in coverage. Moses accounted for multiple penalties against potential Gator receivers throughout the night.
There is a give and take with those two penalties, though. Yes, Moses was out of position on both plays. However, having the awareness to take the penalty instead of allowing almost sure touchdowns shows his maturity as a player. But alas, those two good decisions are married to poor defensive execution on his part.
Getting lost in zone coverage
He also was partially at fault for a massive 3rd-and-17 completion to Kyle Pitts. In that instance, Moses drifted back to his hook zone and widened toward the sideline looking to catch a glimpse of the receivers to his side.
Unfortunately, Pitts already ran vertically and stemmed toward the inside by the time Moses glanced over. Instead of gaining vertical depth in his drop, Moses continued on his path toward the sideline, opening the throwing window for Trask as he guarded empty space.
It was not all bad, though. Overall, Moses seems more comfortable week-by-week against the run. He made a heady play to strip a ball from Jacob Copeland on an outside run. He also made a play in coverage against Pitts on a crossing route, breaking up a pass as it came into the tight end’s hands.
Dylan Moses needs solid performances in the playoffs to rekindle some of his NFL draft buzz. With other linebackers playing well, even his athleticism cannot carry him to a first-round selection. With his coverage struggles, it will be tough to stand on the table for him come April.
Dylan Moses improves NFL Draft stock against Arkansas in Alabama rout
The Arkansas offense wasn’t able to do much against this Alabama defense. Moses showed improvements versus the run. Furthermore, the defense seemed set and ready pre-snap in most instances against Arkansas. It seems that freedom allowed Moses to process getting himself to the spot post-snap. He appeared more decisive and willing to challenge blockers downhill and square. As a result, he looked fast and physical as a tackler this week.
Moses also chased Feleipe Franks out of bounds multiple times from the spy position. His ability to communicate and rotate coverages against motion and switches was evident on Saturday. This helped as he carried the tight end to the corner on a crucial red zone play early in the game. He did a good job of keying route concepts and carrying the necessary receiver. From there, he allowed his athleticism to remain in phase in man coverage.
Looking forward to Florida
Looking forward, Moses and the Alabama defense have a stern test against the Gators. It will be fun to watch if Moses and Florida TE Kyle Pitts match up down the seam on a play. If he can stay with Pitts, it should soothe questions about his coverage ability.
Moses improves in coverage, still struggles against the run in LSU revenge game
The 2020 college football season is an absolute beatdown. Teams and players far and wide are seeing games canceled. Players are ruled out for extended periods because of the protocols, while others opt out as the season progresses.
Moses has struggled in his new role. He played well in spurts back in 2018 while he could just read, react, and flow to the football. It seems this new role tightens him up to the point where he’s overthinking, and therefore reacting slowly to post-snap blocking schemes. Getting everyone else in position is hurting his own game.
Moses against the run
This showed up once again against LSU. His inability to diagnose and trigger downhill against different interior blocking schemes sees him at the second level attacked by interior blockers. His finesse style of play on top of that indecision often ends with him washed out yards behind his original alignment. This was evident against LSU’s inside zone and “duo-based” rushing attack. He remained an easy target for backs reading him at the second level.
And when contact was initiated, far too often, he was unable to duck blocks. Shedding blocks from a cold start? Don’t even ask about it. He doesn’t possess the mass to hold the point of attack. This means his indecision forces a fight against 300-plus pound blockers with all the momentum. His one example where he was aligned outside the tackles, the ball went his way. Moses remained unblocked, came down to the line-of-scrimmage, and somehow missed the tackle.
Moses in coverage
It’s not all bad news, though! This felt like his cleanest and most decisive game as a coverage linebacker since his arrival in Tuscaloosa. He made a nice play on a designed wheel route play by LSU. Moses drove to a set point to pursue the outside and met the back as the ball arrived. For clarity, the back did happen to drop the pass on his own accord, but Moses being there was the important part.
There were multiple other instances of him in both man and zone match, where he could change direction and fluidly mirror route runners. In his zone match looks, Moses was consistently in the right place at the right time. If he can continue to show well in coverage, Moses could salvage some of his earlier draft momentum. He must if he wants to stop it from freefalling.
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. Multiple factors are 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 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 with running games on the defensive line, opening up gaps for looping edge rushers to penetrate through.
Moses in pass coverage
His coverage abilities 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. Still, 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. 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.
The changing philosophy in the SEC
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. 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.
Moses in space
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, including 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. 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. 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. Then, 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. Yet, 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.