It wasn't long ago that former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses was seen as a potential first-round pick and the next in a long line of star 'Bama defenders at the NFL level.
As a result, it was quite a surprise to many when Moses went undrafted in last week's NFL Draft, even when considering his injury history. Among the people most surprised that Moses went undrafted, which led to the Jaguars signing him as a priority free agent? None other than Nick Saban.
"It had nothing to do with what kind of football player he is," Saban said via AL.com at a Team Focus fundraiser in Mobile on Thursday. “It was based on medical grades by the teams, which, frankly, was a little surprising to me.
Moses, who was fielding SEC offers as an eighth-grader and became the youngest recruit in LSU history, played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2017 and was named an SEC All-Freshman, but missed two games due to a foot injury.
Moses then started 15 games in 2018, leading the team in tackles with 86 and being named Second Team All-SEC, but he then tore an ACL in his right knee in a fall practice leading up to the 2019 season, causing him to get surgery and miss the season.
Moses returned to the field for Alabama in 2020, leading the team in tackles while starting 13 games, but he noted he had to play through pain throughout most of his entire last season with the Crimson Tide.
Still, to Saban, Moses going undrafted was surprising because he was a player who was able to return to the field following his injury and still contribute.
"You know, in my time in the league, when guys were injured and they came back and played, that usually got out of that 5 medical grade, which is undraftable," Saban said.
"It might have been a 4 medical grade, which means a guy does have an injury, it could be a problem in the future, but he’s come back and played with it so we ought to give him an opportunity, which I certainly think that’s where Dylan Moses should’ve fallen for sure and should’ve gotten an opportunity because he played all season long for us. And I think that should be good enough indicator that he, you know, can play in the NFL.”
Moses ended his college career with 30 starts, 196 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, six sacks, three forced fumbles, six pass deflections, and two interceptions. He is the only linebacker the Jaguars added among their 15 rookies (nine draft picks, six undrafted free agents).
The Jaguars have several coaches with ties to Alabama, so they should know as well as anyone about the kind of player they signed in Moses. Head coach Urban Meyer is close with Saban, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi was Alabama's primary recruiter for Moses, and assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong, who is now Moses' position coach, was a defensive analyst with Alabama in 2020.
And, Saban reminded reporters, the medical grades don't always tell the full story. Saban knows this better than anyone.
"Don’t forget, when I was the coach at the Miami Dolphins, doctors failed Drew Brees on a physical," Saban said.
"From that time on he made about 14 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, passed for like I don’t know how many thousands of yards. So I guess they make mistakes, too.”