Alabama has sent cornerbacks Trevon Diggs (2020), Patrick Surtain II (2021), and Jalyn Armour-Davis (2022) to the last three NFL drafts. In the 2023 class, they have two star true junior CBs in Malachi Moore and Eli Ricks. However, both are coming off uninspiring campaigns after stellar true freshman outings. Does Moore’s scouting report prove he is worthy of an early-round selection, or will he slip further down the draft?
Malachi Moore NFL draft profile
Much like most Crimson Tide defensive backs, Moore joined Alabama as a highly-rated recruit. He concluded his senior season at Hewitt-Trussville High School with 83 total tackles (five for loss), four interceptions (two pick-sixes), and eight pass deflections. As a result, Moore earned a four-star billing in the 2020 class and was listed as the 19th-best safety in the country.
Despite rival bids from Arkansas, Auburn, and Georgia, Moore decided to stay close to home, signing with the Crimson Tide. And it didn’t take long for him to find his footing in Tuscaloosa, even though he had to learn Nick Saban’s defense primarily through Zoom due to COVID-19.
As a true freshman, Moore showed the football IQ and raw physical ability to start in the “STAR” role (slot) from Day 1. By season’s end, he garnered second-team All-SEC honors and led the Alabama defense in total turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble recovery, which he forced).
Yet, he seemed to regress last season. From Weeks 8-12 (Alabama had a Week 9 bye), Moore allowed a touchdown in three of four games after allowing just one in 2020. Thus, Saban inserted teammate Brian Branch (also a 2020 four-star recruit) into the starting lineup, leaving Moore to ride the bench the rest of the year.
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’0″, 190 pounds
Malachi Moore scouting report
Reports out of spring camp have Branch as the favorite to receive first-team reps heading into 2022. If that’s the case, Moore will likely return for his true senior campaign, whether at Alabama or elsewhere — depending on if Branch plays well and returns or Moore falls completely out of favor.
But that is all speculation, and we won’t know Moore’s true role until a few weeks into the season. So for now, let’s evaluate what Moore has already put on tape and his potential as an NFL draft prospect.
Where Moore wins
There are three things that immediately pop off the screen when watching Moore: physicality, overall athleticism, and discipline. Playing in the slot, Moore has to contain the edge and kick inside to help against the run. He does so with visible effort and isn’t afraid to get his jersey dirty. Even if he’s not the primary tackler, Moore pushes the pile and will even be the clean-up man, laying the final blow on a receiver fighting through the initial defender.
Transitioning from coverage to run defense is a breeze, as Moore’s fluidity and reaction speed are elite. And his downhill trigger is amongst the best in the class. While Moore isn’t the strongest player, he can fight through blocks from receivers and blow up screens.
If he can’t reach the receiver on the play, he will force a double-team, affording his teammates a clean lane. Additionally, Moore shoots out of a cannon as a blitzer, generating pressure before a potential blocker can get out of his stance.
As a slot defender, the Alabama CB wasn’t asked to press often. However, he showed the ability to jam at the line with his length, as well as reroute WRs downfield. When tackling, Moore’s safety background is easy to see.
He is stellar in the open field, bringing down speedy receivers by taking out their legs. Against bigger opponents, he keeps his head up and feet moving, allowing teammates to gang tackle if he can’t finish on his own. Moore won’t fall for fake pitches and laterals either, and he is generally controlled in his pursuit and angles.
So far, so good, right? We haven’t even gotten to my favorite part. Moore’s athletic and physical builds are NFL-caliber. He’s stocky at 6’0″ and 190 pounds, and there is still room to add muscle mass. Athletically, the Alabama CB owns the speed to carry WRs downfield. That speed isn’t just vertical, as Moore has no issue closing on passes, making late throws a death sentence for offensive drives.
Furthermore, his change-of-direction ability is exceptional, as he can plant a foot and explode quicker than you can say “Roll Tide.” That lateral burst appears in all facets, whether bouncing between bodies around the box, chasing ball carriers sideline to sideline, or mirroring receiver movements.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
In coverage, Moore remains patient, won’t flip his hips unless necessary, and stays in phase throughout the route. What impresses me most is his ability to key on WRs mid-route. He identifies changes in pad level, step quickness, and stride tempo — all indicators that a receiver is about to break. Thus, Moore can beat his opponent to where they want to go, or at least be in a position to make a play on the ball.
Moore has also shown the propensity to rotate coverages as a safety, covering ground instantly pre- and post-snap. His range is impressive, as is his constant communication throughout reps. The Alabama CB ensures nearby defenders are in lockstep, especially when the offense motions players around. Moreover, Moore’s instincts and play recognition skills are off the charts. He sniffs out RPOs, getting his hands up in quick-throwing lanes. And he looks for work once he realizes his zone shell isn’t in danger.
Moore’s areas for improvement
Here’s the main rub with Moore: he got lazy with his fundamentals last season. Whether it was getting too high in his backpedal or leaving his coverage too earlier to try and make a play, Moore made questionable decisions, leading to his benching. It could stem from overconfidence in his physical abilities, as most of the time, he was able to get away with it. His lateral spryness and length/speed combination make up for most breakdowns mentally, but that won’t fly in the NFL.
When tackling, Moore would sometimes duck his head and leave his feet before fully securing the tackle, conceding extra yardage. Although he plays a physical brand of football, the Alabama CB can get stuck on blocks from bigger receivers and tight ends in the ground game, rendering him out of the play. He can use his agility to sidestep attempted blocks, but if blockers get their hands on him, more likely than not, he won’t be near the ball carrier.
In zone coverage, Moore sporadically keeps his eyes on the QB for too long. As a result, receivers sneak into and around his zone, making themselves available for a quick pass. While he is disciplined in man coverage, it’s not uncommon to see Moore bail on his technique (inside/outside shade) too soon, creating holes for QBs to fit passes into.
Lastly, much of Moore’s struggles last season could be contributed to a stress fracture that lingered throughout the year. He appears much healthier this offseason, and word out of camp is Moore has returned to his true freshman form. That is good news, but Moore has to prove it on the field and earn his starting position back.
Current draft projection for Alabama CB Malachi Moore
Some big boards and mock drafts have Moore going in the first round, but it’s tough to put him there right now. After all, he may be riding the pine this season. The thing is, Moore isn’t a projection — we’ve seen him produce already. And cornerback play is relatively volatile year over year, so when you add in his injury last season, his poor performance isn’t too shocking.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft CB Class
Nevertheless, we need to see Moore rebound in 2022 before placing him in the Day 1 conversation. But the raw talent, athletic gifts, and size make for a compelling NFL draft prospect. Moore’s versatility will benefit him, as he can line up and succeed wherever a defense needs him to. Think of a Marlon Humphrey or Jalen Ramsey-type. I won’t put those expectations on a true junior coming off a down season, but Moore can thrive in a similar role.
We may be talking about Moore this time next year as a 2024 NFL Draft prospect if things go array this season, but the potential is there. All he has to do is realize it, seize it, and make it come to fruition.
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