Cowboys 2013 Draft Targets: UConn OLB Sio Moore

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, its important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you, BTB offers a series of detailed scouting reports on these players, compiled from the work of top draft analysts. Today, we'll look at UConn outside linebacker Sio Moore

Moore, whose full first name is Snorsio, was born in the African country of Liberia, and grew up in Connecticut before moving to North Carolina after his freshman year of high school. He played in four games as a redshirt freshman (six tackles, one for loss) before taking the starting job four games into the Huskies' 2010 campaign and never relinquishing it. For the next three years, Moore was a highly productive playmaker. In his sophomore year, he was credited with 110 tackles (11.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks; as a junior, he racked up 86 tackles (with a team-leading 16 for loss), adding 6.5 sacks and six pass breakups. In his senior year, in which he earned All-Big East first-team honors, Moore notched 72 tackles (15.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks, and 11 pass breakups. As you can see, Moore totaled 268 tackles in three years as a starter for UConn, including a whopping 43 for a loss.

Despite this impressive production, Moore wasn't on draftniks radar until he distinguished himself in various post-season all-star games. After a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game, Moore was a late invite to the more prestigious Senior Bowl, where he flashed in practices, leading Kevin Weidl of ESPN Scouts Inc. to report that "No 2013 draft prospect has helped himself more during the all-star process than" Moore. Following this, Moore blew up at the Combine, where he posted strong 40-yard dash (4.65) and jump marks (38-inch vertical and 10'7" broad), adding 4.31 20-yard shuttle and 7.49 second three-cone drill times.

As these numbers suggest, Moore is explosive and had excellent straight-line speed, but doesn't have the elite agility to match. As might be expected, therefore, scouts marvel at his burst and ability to get around the corner (he has 15+ sacks as a 4-3 OLB) but don't rave about his change of direction and ability to flip his hips in coverage. Let's take a look at what they're looking at. Here, thanks to the excellent gents at Draft Breakdown, he can be seen in Big East play against Temple, Louisville and Rutgers. And here he is in non-conference action against North Carolina State.

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Now that you've formed an initial opinion of Moore's game, you're probably wondering what our panel of leading draftniks think of him. Lets take a looksee:

ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 3rd-rated OLB; 48th overall

Instincts/ Recognition: Overall instincts and diagnostic skill are just average. Run fits are inconsistent and will be overaggressive at times as a backside defender providing runners with an easy read for the cut back. Will also get caught peeking inside when having edge responsibility and allow runners to gain the edge. Can be second late diagnosing and reacting with misdirection runs and play action passes. Displays better awareness in coverage and can read quarterbacks eyes and get into throwing lanes. Also flashes solid instincts as a pass rusher and blitzer from the second level and will look for the strip when getting home to the quarterback.

Take-on Skills: Needs to get stronger and play with more aggression in this area. Flashes explosive power in his upper body but needs to be much more consistent with his hands in combat and will struggle at times to shed blocks. Can get overwhelmed by more massive blockers when locked in a phone booth.

Range vs. Run: Not a smooth athlete but possesses adequate overall range. Displays some tightness and can lose balance on occasion when having to make a sudden change of direction. Shows an above-average closing burst once pointed in the right direction and can make up ground in pursuit. Wades through traffic well but can clean up pursuit angles.

Tackling: Generally a fundamentally sound tackler. Does a nice job of wrapping up upon contact. Not overly explosive and doesn't have knock back capability as a tackler. Can come in too hot in pursuit and needs to do a better job of breaking down to become a more reliable tackler in space.

Third Down Capabilities: Shows good range when aligned in underneath zone coverage. Flashes playmaking ability with above-average closing burst and ball skills. Can adjust and secure INT outside of his frame. Will have limitations if asked to match up with more athletic TEs or quicker RBs in man coverage. Not an overly explosive pass rusher but times his pressures well and shows an above-average closing burst outside of his frame.

Intangibles: Possesses solid practice habits. Well respected by coaches and teammates. No red flags with character.

National Football Post (Russ Lande): 3rd-rated LB; 139th overall

Strengths: Moore has the ability to get around the edges quickly on blitz packages, and has the ability to play man coverage against TE / RB from a trail alignment. He is a physical player, bends his knees well and has the ability to explode up on a block. Shows very good form tackling at times and can come up with the big hit. He reacts very well to the play and has very good footwork that allows him to bounce outside or cut inside quickly on a run play. He shows very good coordination as he showed the ability to rush the QB and was able to time the throw and knock the ball down.

Weaknesses: Moore is not a player that will go sideline to sideline quickly and always be around the play. He needs to avoid going for the big hit as he will hit high and not wrap up at times, which leads him to miss tackles he has shown the ability to easily make when he uses good form. His coverage skills down the field are questionable as he does not flip his hips quickly and therefore can be turned around easily. He does not consistently read and react to the play fast and has to improve his football smarts to produce at the level of his athleticism.

Summary: Moore is a very athletic football player. He has the ability to play both man coverage and zone coverage, although he needs to flip his hips without losing a step more consistently. He will struggle in press coverage as he does not flip his hips quickly and can therefore be turned around, but he has the ability to play coverage well against TE over the middle. He has solid ball skills, although his hands need to improve. He can turn the corner quickly tp be a very good pass rush LB off the edge, although he needs to develop more pass rush moves. His quickness around the edges work in college, but he will need to add some moves and become stronger at the POA to be an effective pass rusher at the next level. Overall Moore can play in both a 3-4 defense as he has the ability to rush the QB, and a 4-3 as he has the ability to play in coverage. He projects as a solid backup and will need to improve on his coverage skills and become more consistent wrapping up if he is going to become a starter in the NFL.

Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 6th-rated OLB; 66th overall

Positives: Well-built and muscular with outstanding arm length. Outstanding post-season all-star performances (East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl) and Combine showing - posted a 38-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump and 29 benchpress reps. Athletic movement. Nice arm length to protect his frame and shed. Pursues well laterally. Dangerous blitzer. Can run with backs and tight ends. Good hands to intercept. Was used extensively over the slot and in space. Special-teams experience. Four-down utility.

Negatives: Lacks bulk strength. Not stout at the point of attack. Gets pinballed inside and gives ground to get off blocks (needs to be protected). Misses tackles he should secure - tends to leave his feet and go low. Not a violent striker. Could stand to play with more consistent intensity.

Summary: Athletic, versatile, run-and-hit ‘backer who earned a Senior Bowl invite from the Shrine game and has top-end speed to earn a job as a "Will" linebacker.

Ourlads (Dan Shonka): 5th-rated OLB; 68th overall

Three-year starter. Had exposure at both the Senior Bowl and Shrine Bowl games which showcased his talent and athleticism. Very good range, speed, and lateral quickness. Gets through traffic without breaking stride. A good open field tackler who keeps leverage on the ball. A sudden and fast edge blitzer with long arms and big hands. A good football player who needs to build on his already strong upper and lower body.

Senior Bowl notes: Displayed energy and a good motor in practice. Was quick initially and did a nice job tracking, moving downhill. Decent agility in space. Good lateral movement. Shows good instincts but did make a bad read/ fit at times and got caught on the wrong side of a block. Explosive taking on blocks. Took a false step reacting at times but shows the quickness and agility to compensate. He did redirect well in traffic and was sudden in change of direction. Took good angles working to the perimeter and had a burst in pursuit. Played well in practice as he made a lot of plays versus the run and carried it over to the game. Zone coverage awareness was above average. Overall, in one practice and the game he showed all the necessary tools to play linebacker in the NFL.

Moore had a rare quinella, leading both the Senior Bowl North team (6) and the Shrine Bowl East team (7) in tackles. Included among his 13 total tackles were a sack and three tackles for loss (-16 yards). Reminds us of a young Lance Briggs.

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With the NFL increasingly becoming a pass-first league, OLBs like Moore are proving to be valuable draft day commodities, especially by 4-3 teams like the Cowboys, Lions, and Seahawks, who put a premium on speed and quickness. Indeed, we'll see in the coming days, when we look at the other national invitees to Valley Ranch, that this is precisely the Cowboys OLB template. All of them - Sean Porter, Gerald Hodges, Brandon Magee - are undersized, have excellent speed, and good to very good lateral agility. I think Moore is probably the best of the lot, due in no small part to his impressive productivity; he was a three-year starter, registered 274 career tackles, and was in opponents' backfields with some regularity, as his TFL and sack totals can attest. I'll place him in the second round on my 2013 "little board."

I don't know whether Dallas will be willing to spend a second-rounder on Moore, but I firmly believe that, come April 27, there will be a new player on the Cowboys roster who shares the traits that make him a desirable candidate.

Next up: Texas A&M outside linebacker Sean Porter

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