The New Orleans Saints had an outstanding linebacker tandem of Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander in 2020. Davis is an All-Pro and has been one of the league's best defensive players since his arrival to New Orleans in 2018. Alexander's arrival via trade in 2020 helped elevate the Saints into one of the NFL's best defensive units.
Alexander suffered a torn Achilles late in the year, then was released for salary cap reasons. Alex Anzalone also departed in free agency, leaving the Saints with a void at linebacker to complement Davis. Alexander may be brought back after the draft and the team hopes for big improvement from 2020 3rd round choice Zack Baun.
As New Orleans heads into the 2021 draft, there are a couple linebackers that they could target with their first round pick. There are also several prospects projected to be selected on the second day that look like they could be immediate contributors.
Today's draft profile spotlights one of those prospects. A decorated player from a perennial title contender.
DYLAN MOSES, LINEBACKER (ALABAMA)
Moses has been hailed as ‘‘The Next Great Player’’ since before he even took a snap of high school football. A star at University High School in Baton Rouge, he’d transfer to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year. As a senior, he was voted Parade Magazine National Player of the Year. Originally committing to LSU, he decided to instead attend Alabama.
Appearing in 11 games with two starts as a true freshman in 2017, Moses recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception before missing the end of the year with a broken foot. He started all 15 games in 2018, leading Alabama with 86 tackles. Ten of those stops were for loss, as he added 3.5 sacks and forced a fumble while earning 2nd team All-SEC recognition.
A torn ACL suffered in practice sidelined Moses for 2019. Moses returned to the Crimson Tide in 2020, fueling their defense on a national title run. He recorded 80 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and added 1.5 sacks, 3 passes broken up, and a forced fumble. Moses was voted 1st team All-SEC and 3rd team All-American for 2020.
His knee injury appeared to slow him at times last season, possibly pushing him down the draft boards of some teams. Moses is thinly built in his lower body, leading to a poor base when taking on blockers in the gap against the run. Sometimes has a passive approach when taking on blockers head-on.
Moses is a little tight-hipped when in man coverage. That's created issues when guarding shifty back or tight ends and causes him to get grabby in coverage. He didn't appear nearly as explosive after returning from his knee injury and wasn't as aggressive as a tackler as earlier in his career.
Alabama has produced a string of instinctive and athletic linebackers to the NFL, and Moses fits that same profile. He has a good natural feel for the game against both the run and pass and is rarely out of position. Possesses excellent sideline-to-sideline range and is seemingly always around the ball.
Moses has the athleticism to take on tight ends in man coverage and even the foot speed to stay with most running backs. He flows instinctively in zones and shows terrific reaction when the ball is in the air. He’s light on his feet when maneuvering through traffic in pursuit and has outstanding burst once he sees a lane to the ball carrier.
Dylan Moses projects to an inside or weak side linebacker at the NFL level. He needs a formidable defensive line in front of him to be most effective against the run and may not have the lower body strength for a strongside position.
Moses will be a Day 2 pick that could even sneak late into the first round. He has the instincts, experience at the highest level of college football, and the open field speed to work into a starting role quickly.