TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of the biggest questions of the draft season for Alabama players has happened to Dylan Moses? The player who had so much promise and was thought to be a potentially strong contender for the Butkus Award didn't have the strongest senior season.
Instead, he never looked quite right an his numbers never quite popped as expected. Moses was still the leader for the Crimson Tide defense that won the national championship, yet there was little buzz about him as an NFL prospect.
Now we know why.
On Monday, Moses disclosed that he played nearly all of the 2020 season with a torn meniscus. He suffered the injury while making 13 tackles against Ole Miss during Week 3 of the Crimson Tide's undefeated season (Oct. 3), and wasn't diagnosed until more than three months later after the title-game win over Ohio State.
Moses didn't have corrective surgery until February, which sidelined him from pre-draft workouts.
"It was said it was a bone bruise, but it kept bothering me throughout the year and I just never really spoke up about it," Moses said.
"I'm the type of person that, if I'm in pain or something, I never want to leave the field, so I just didn't say anything about it."
Moses missed the 2019 season after suffering an ACL knee injury, so there was plenty of talk that he hadn't fully recovered and was still lacking the necessary confidence to completely cut loose.
He still was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, but the revelation was the missing piece to the puzzle.
While it probably won't factor much into when Moses gets selected, especially since it's a strong year for interior linebackers, it could help land with with the right team.
"It seems like he’s been at Alabama forever," Sports Illustrated analyst Jim Mora Jr. said. "You turn on the tape, or you turn on the game, and go ‘God, there’s No. 32 again. Didn’t he graduate? Isn’t he lplaying in the NFL somewhere?
"So he’s been a productive player for so long I think sometimes you take a guy like that for granted, maybe. Certainly knee injury was a real setback, but this is a football-savvy player. This is a guy who has been productive his whole career. He’s had success his whole career. I’m talking about high school and college. This is a guy who is a good signal-caller. A tremendously gifted athlete."
One thing that will strongly work in Moses' favor is his reputation. Once considered a prodigy, he started getting scholarship offers when in the eighth grade, and he was considered an elite prospect long before signing on to play at IMG Academy in Florida.
All that was lacking was that monster season at Alabama, which he seemed destined to have. Instead, he was sidelined by a foot injury during a practice for the 2017-18 College Football Playoff, and then had the fall camp knee injury in 2019.
"Obviously you noticed him when he was younger, before the injuries, and you get excited about him," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "But when I went back and watched him this year, he’s a good player, I like the energy he plays with, I still think his eyes work really well. I thought he struggled some in coverage and I thought he struggled to get off blocks."
It's impossible to say how much of that was due to injuries, but teams don't consider physical setbacks to be as big of a red flag as they used to, thanks in part to significant advances in medicine.
Think back to the 2016 draft and Jaylon Smith saw his draft stock drop after suffering a knee injury. Instead of being a potential top-five pick he fell to the second round where he went 34th to the Dallas Cowboys.
He's now the team's defensive captain, and in 2019 signed a five-year, $64 million contract extension with the Cowboys with $35.5 million guaranteed.
Moses will probably still be a late-second or third-round selection, but he might end up being the steal of the 2021 NFL Draft.
"I think he’s a guy who in 10 years we’re going to look up and go ‘That Dylan Moses is still playing in the NFL? Darn, I thought he retired years ago,'" Mora said. "He’s just one of those guys. He’s a ball player, you know? I love guys like that. You want them on your roster."
NFL Draft Bible
NFL Draft Bible founder Ric Serritella handled this week's Mock Draft Monday personally with his latest first-round projection.
It included six former Crimson Tide players:
7. DeVonta Smith, Lions
12. Jaylen Waddle, Eagles
15. Mac Jones, Patriots
18. Patrick Surtain II, Dolphins
21. Najee Harris, Steelers
28. Christian Barmore, Saints
Lance Zierlein posted his 2021 NFL mock draft 3.0, which was highlight by the Eagles still getting Jaylen Waddle after trading down. Zierlein's mocks notoriously try to predict what he thinks teams will do, not necessarily how he feels about prospects.
4. Patrick Surtain II, Falcons
7. DeVonta Smith, Lions
8. Mac Jones, Panthers
12. Jaylen Waddle, Eagles
17. Christian Barmore, Raiders
31. Landon Dickerson, Chiefs
Mel Kiper Jr. updated his position rankings, which are full of former Crimson Tide players in each top 10:
QB: 4. Mac Jones
RB: 1. Najee Harris
FB: 5. Carl Tucker
WR: 1. DeVonta Smith; 3. Jaylen Waddle
G: 6. Alex Leatherwood
C: 1. Landon Dickerson
DT: 1. Christian Barmore
ILB: 9. Dylan Moses
CB: 2. Patrick Surtain II
LS: 1. Thomas Fletcher
He also has Smith at No. 3 on his big board, with Waddle fifth and Jones 12th, ahead of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
"He just keeps improving," Kiper wrote about Jones.
2021 Draft Order
- Jacksonville (1-15)
- NY Jets (2-14)
- San Francisco from Miami via Houston (4-12)
- Atlanta (4-12)
- Cincinnati (4-11-1)
- Miami from Philadelphia (4-11-1)
- Detroit (5-11)
- Carolina (5-11)
- Denver (5-11)
- Dallas (6-10)
- NY Giants (6-10)
- Philadelphia from Miami via San Francisco (6-10)
- LA Chargers (7-9)
- Minnesota (7-9)
- New England (7-9)
- Arizona (8-8)
- Las Vegas (8-8)
- Miami (10-6)
- Washington (7-9)
- Chicago (8-8)
- Indianapolis (11-5)
- Tennessee (11-5)
- NY Jets from Seattle* (12-4)
- Pittsburgh (12-4)
- Jacksonville from LA Rams* (10-6)
- Cleveland (11-5)
- Baltimore (11-5)
- New Orleans (12-4)
- Green Bay (13-3)
- Buffalo (13-3)
- Kansas City (14-2)
- Tampa Bay (11-5)