Cowboys Draft Prospects: Rahim Moore

This issue of our extended look at potential Dallas draftees examines the game of UCLA safety Rahim Moore. Moore burst onto the national scene in 2009 when he led all of college football with 10 interceptions. After that, many expected him to have a breakout 2010 campaign--one in which he would establish himself as a surefire first-rounder in the mold of Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. Instead, his game fell off considerably--so much so that many draft pundits were surprised when he declared for the draft when he still had one season of eligibility remaining.

That's not to say that his entire junior year was a bust. Moore started all 12 games, was a team captain, was third on the team in tackles (77). He was rewarded for his efforts with first-team All-American honors by the Sporting News and was named to the  Nagurski and Lott Trophy as well as the Bednarik Award watch lists. However, Moore's potentionally burgeoning trophy case seems not to have impressed NFL scouts, who concede his athleticism (at UCLA's pro day, he ran a 4.16 short shuttle, showed excellent footwork, quickness, and ball skills), yet have some serious questions about his speed (his 40 times at the Combine were in the 4.5-4.6 range).

Take a look at this video of Moore in action against Cal; watching him, it seems that he is slow to diagnose, and would prefer to let the action come to him that stick his head in it and mix it up.

In spite of his pedestrian wheels and less than scintillating tape, Moore has received a good deal of interest from NFL teams. Other than the Cowboys, Moore has scheduled visits or workouts with the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, Bengals, Titans, and Raiders. What, other than the fact that this is one of the poorest safety classes in recent memory, has all these teams wearing out his phone? See what some of our favorite draft gurus say after the jump...

National Football Post (Wes Bunting) top-rated FS; 37th overall

A lean defensive back with a long set of arms and very average overall girth on his frame. Doesn't seem real muscular and needs to continue to hit the weight room. Lacks ideal pop/power as a tackler and is more of a drag down guy. Possesses good instincts when asked to fill the alley and attack downhill and for the most part breaks down well in space. Takes good angles and uses his length to get into the frame of ball carriers and will wrap on the play. At times will see his tackles broken because of his lacks ideal snap on contact, but more times than not he gets his man to the ground and takes proper angles in pursuit. Isn't overly physical when asked to shed blocks in the secondary though, can be sealed easily at times from the play and just doesn't have an overly physical element to his game.

However, will make his money in the NFL because of his ability to consistently play the pass. Displays natural flexibility and balance in his drop. Is able to sit into his stance, keeps his base down, his feet under him and gets too deep off the line. At times gets a bit quick with his backpedal, causing his pad level to rise. But for the most part is patient off the line and keying his pass keys. Does a nice job keeping his base down and feet under him when asked to redirect and get out of his breaks. Doesn't waste much motion, possesses a good but not great first step when asked to turn and run, but has the straight-line speed to ball hawk in the center field type role. Displays good instincts and consistently is able to get early jumps on the football on all areas of the field and loves to attack the football at its highest point. Exhibits good ball skills, looks comfortable getting his hands on the throw, contorting his body, maintaining concentration and coming down with the catch. Possesses good awareness with routes developing around him vertically down the field, but at times will drift in his drop and not show the same type of instincts with routes developing underneath him. Can be a bit slow at times to recognize and click and close underneath, but it should improve with time.

Is an extremely productive safety who had 10 picks as a sophomore last season, 14 for his career, but had only one in 2010. Is a high character kid and team leader, but does have some questions about his work ethic in the weight room, considering he was at a big time program and has a really unimpressive frame at this stage.

Impression: A tall, lean, fluid defensive back who can cleanly change directions, possesses good range in the deep half and knows how to play the football. Would like to see him become a bit more physical in run presence, but will make his money playing the pass. Has the ability to come in and start in an NFL secondary early in his NFL career.

The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 2nd-rated safety; 63rd overall

Strengths: Has excellent athletic ability, speed and range. Shows loose hips to turn and run with receivers, good bend and quick footwork in coverage. Has outstanding coverage instincts, awareness and anticipation skills. Has excellent closing ability on plays in front of him as a zone defender. Is effective in man-to-man coverage against a running back, tight end or slot receiver.

Weaknesses: Is undersized and lacks growth potential. Lacks elite speed deep, acceleration and recovery speed downfield in man coverage. Is an inconsistent tackler on the move. Lacks return value for special teams.

Bottom line: Moore, who led the NCAA with 10 interceptions in '09, merits high third-round draft consideration by a team looking for a potential first-year starter at free safety.

Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 2nd-rated FS; 75th overall

Positives: Outstanding interception production as a sophomore. Natural ball skills and soft hands—can elevate and highpoint the ball. Is light on his feet—has a fluid, patient pedal and is loose-hipped and agile to transition smoothly. Clocked 3.96 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine. Good range—covers ground effortlessly off the hash. Runs the alley and closes fast. Is competitive and has a passion for the game.

Negatives
: Average timed speed. Has a lean frame, lacks bulk and needs to get stronger—bench-pressed 225 pounds only 11 times at the Combine. Stays wired on blocks and catches too much contact. Questionable pursuit angles. Leaky, low tackler. Monotone mover—lacks twitch and does not play a violent brand. Gives up separation in man coverage. Eyes become average the closer he gets to the line of scrimmage. Registered 15 percent body fat at the Combine, second-highest among defensive backs and needs to commit to more conditioning.

Summary
: Overhyped, finesse, ball-hawking free safety with a narrow, cornerback build. Does not intimidate physically and looks like a fish out of water near the line of scrimmage. Possesses the fluidity and ball skills to roam center field and figures to be overdrafted in a weak safety class.

ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) top-rated DS; 33rd overall

Production: Excellent natural instincts. Diagnoses plays quickly and without peeking in the backfield. Will not catch him taking many false steps. Is confident in his ability to read the quarterbacks' eyes when in zone coverage and doesn't waste time second-guessing.

Height-Weight-Speed: Very quick feet and good balance in pedal. At his best playing centerfielder's role, where he can read quarterbacks' eyes, get an early jump and attack the ball. He has very good range in zone and shows consistent ability to hold up in deep-middle (cover-3 and man-free). Far less experienced in man coverage. Has the agility, top-end speed, confidence and instincts to protect himself, but he is a bit high cut and will have some problems mirroring quicker slot WR's in the NFL.

Durability
: He is aggressive when the ball is in the air, will go up and contest, and he consistently high points it the ball. He has great hand-eye coordination and strong hands. Although production dipped this past fall as a junior he has 14 career INT's which backs up what we've seen on film.

Position-specific Intangibles: Is a bit undersized and will never thrive playing near the box. Also has some trouble getting off of blocks on occasion. Takes very good angles in deep pursuit and typically takes solid angles when filling from the high point. Not an explosive hitter but does a good job of breaking down and wrapping up quickly in space. Doesn't hesitate as a tackler. He closes in a hurry and will hog-tie ball carriers around the ankles. Occasionally will fail to wrap up because he has left his feet and the few times we've seen it on tape it has been against smaller ball carriers.

Overall Intangibles: Voted a team captain as a junior. Hard worker on and off the field. Good student. Takes excellent care of his body and understands importance of nutrition. Models his game after Ed Reed's.

Even though Moore played in the box more as a senior, its clear that most scouts don't see him as a strong safety type. I think he'll be drafted by a team that values the strength of his game: the ability to play center field. It would almost certainly have to be for a Tampa-2 style defense, as he doesn't have the raw speed to run with receivers down the seam. Moreover, teams whose safeties are essentially interchangeable will probably shy away form him, as it seems he doesn't have much SS pop to his game.

That said, he's likely to be the first safety off the board. Note that the above list of teams who have expressed interest in Moore have picks in the second round roughly between picks 35-50. If we accept Pro Football Weekly's top 100 list as an approximation of the NFL consensus--they have Moore at number 48--the middle of round two certainly seems to be his range, especially given the dearth of top-flight safety talent in this year's class.  That's where I'll slot him, in the second round, where Dallas has the 40th pick. Although that might be at the early part of his range, it would still be a plausible fit.

Next up: two scoops of local-prospect goodness, from opposite ends of the academic spectrum: Harvard FS Collin Zych and Oklahoma FS Johnathan Nelson

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