In recent years, Iowa Hawkeyes football has become synonymous with excellence in the trenches and playmaking tight ends. However, they’ve also produced their fair share of defensive backs for the NFL. This season is no exception, with cornerback Riley Moss attracting significant NFL Draft attention. Moss earned a Senior Bowl invite after a sensational season, but does his scouting report match the statistical output and star reputation?
Riley Moss NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Iowa
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 194 pounds
Riley Moss Scouting Report
In the current pass-happy NFL era, you can never have too many ball-hawking cornerbacks. In fact, you could make an argument that cornerback is the most important defensive position in the modern game. New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore is the NFL’s third highest-paid defensive player in terms of guaranteed money. Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey is a top-10 defensive player in terms of total contract value.
As a result, there is constantly a need for most teams to add a cornerback in the NFL Draft. This year’s class has impressive depth and a number of potential first-round prospects. While Moss won’t ascend the top of the class, he has a number of impressive attributes that should ensure he hears his name called in Las Vegas.
Let’s start Moss’ scouting report with his stature. At 6’1″ and 195 pounds, he has decent size to play the position in the NFL. As a result, Iowa has predominantly used Moss at right outside cornerback. He has seen some alignment in the slot, but in the games studied, he spent most of his time covering the right side of the field.
Size isn’t always a precursor of success at the NFL level. Length for cornerbacks can be a far greater weapon than height itself. Although Moss won’t have the longest arms or wingspan in this class — 30.5-inch arms, according to RideNDraft.com — he plays as if his arms are longer. There were multiple examples on tape where it looked impossible for him to make a play on the ball, yet he somehow managed to get a hand to it and cause a deflection.
Productive playmaker with a solid all-round NFL Draft profile
Productive playmakers are at a premium, and there’s no doubting that Moss has been one of the most consistently productive defensive players in college football. Although some of his production has been the result of sheer luck, as the expression goes: you make your own luck. Moss routinely puts himself in the right place to make a play and makes the most of any opportunity that presents itself.
The Iowa cornerback also has a strong athletic profile that enables him to make plays. Moss is able to close quickly and break on routes to impact the ball. He also has decent speed to ensure he can go stride for stride with receivers down the field. A former hurdler, he also demonstrates good vertical athleticism that allows him to go up and make a play at the catch point.
While coverage remains a large part of a cornerback’s scouting report, run support is also a big part of the evaluation process at the position. Here, Moss demonstrates some desirable tendencies. He does an excellent job of disengaging from blockers in the run game. Additionally, he diagnoses and reacts quickly to the play. Furthermore, his athletic ability ensures he possesses good range to impact plays anywhere on the field.
Moss’ scouting report reveals a solid all-around player who should get the opportunity to play at the NFL level. Although he has some experience playing both off and press-man coverage, his high exposure to zone schemes at Iowa would make him a good fit for zone-heavy teams in the NFL. At present, Moss is my 167th-overall prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, which would see him as a fifth-round selection.
Areas for improvement
Although Moss presents as a solid NFL Draft prospect, there are some areas for improvement on his scouting report. Moreover, there are some limitations that could create a ceiling for his NFL stock.
The biggest concern upon studying his tape was how frequently Moss allows separation. There were examples of him giving up a yard almost instantaneously in man coverage, especially in red-zone and goal-line situations. Furthermore, he was often a yard or more away from his man in the open field, and only bad quarterback play prevented him from being exposed.
Although he reacts and disengages well in run support, there are some issues in this element of his scouting report, too. Moss isn’t the most physical player against the run. As a result, he isn’t routinely found “in the thick of it” in the run game. Moss needs to be a more physical presence to elevate his stock.
How will Moss’ length impact his NFL Draft stock? The Iowa cornerback will have one of the shorter wingspan measurements in the class. Personally, I think he plays above and beyond that measurement. However, the NFL has proven to be a stickler for position-specific measurements.
Riley Moss Player Profile
Some prospects are seemingly born playing the game at a high level. Others seem to develop later on in their football journey, earning reputations as late bloomers. At Centennial High School, Moss fit neatly into the latter category. While some high school prospects play four years, he didn’t rise to prominence until his junior season.
During that 2016 campaign, he tallied 37 tackles and 3 interceptions on defense. Meanwhile, Moss showcased his athletic ability by averaging 13.4 yards per return as a punt returner. His athletic ability would be demonstrated away from the football field during his last two seasons at Centennial. As a senior, he was the Iowa State 110-meter hurdle and 800-meter relay champion while setting a state record in the hurdles.
Due to the late-blooming nature of his high school athletic career, Moss was largely overlooked. A two-star recruit in the 2018 class, he was the 248th-ranked cornerback and 2,732nd player nationally despite being viewed as the 13th-best in Iowa. As a result, offers were few and far between. In June 2017, he committed to perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.
Yet, Moss began to attract attention closer to home during his senior season. While adding another interception to his high school résumé, he also contributed touchdowns as a kick returner, punt returner, and wide receiver. Additionally, he showcased leadership as a team captain. Impressed by his senior campaign, the Hawkeyes swopped in to steal his heart and commitment.
“In the beginning of my recruitment, before any offers happened, I was like Iowa is the only team that will take me away from anything,” Moss told Hawk Central. “And, of course, they came in late after I committed to North Dakota State.”
Moss’ career at Iowa
Despite being a late bloomer in high school, Moss made an immediate impact at cornerback for Iowa. As a true freshman in 2018, he made 13 appearances, including five starts. Moss demonstrated his ability to be a playmaker at the college level by snagging 2 interceptions in his first start against Minnesota. As a result, he earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
Moss would become something of a bogeyman for Minnesota. During his sophomore season, he secured a pick against the Golden Gophers on their last play of the game. It was the second of his 2019 campaign, having posted an interception against Purdue just one game after returning from a four-game injury layoff.
During his junior year, he’d return to haunt Minnesota again. After snagging his first career pick-six against Michigan State, Moss made it 4 interceptions in three career games against Minnesota. The Iowa cornerback also posted a career-high 9 tackles against Northwestern. After tallying 43 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups in the shortened 2020 college football campaign, he earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Superb senior season elevates Moss’ NFL Draft stock
Moss saved his best for last. Despite missing three games after suffering a posterior cruciate ligament tear in the win over Penn State, the Iowa cornerback had a career season as a senior as the Hawkeyes made a challenge for the Big Ten Championship.
During the season-opening win over Indiana, Moss snagged 2 INTs, taking them both to the house for touchdowns. Furthermore, he secured interceptions in consecutive games against Maryland and Penn State. In addition to receiving first-team All-Big Ten accolades, Moss was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year.
Although he hasn’t officially announced his declaration for the 2022 NFL Draft, Moss accepted his Reese’s Senior Bowl invite, signaling his attention to head to the NFL. Although Moss might not emulate ex-Hawkeye Josh Jackson, who was a second-round pick in 2018, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him selected in the same mid-round range as former Iowa defensive backs Desmond King and Micah Hyde.