Damontre Moore's Texas A&M career got off to a fast start and just kept rolling. As a freshman in 2010, he earned an All-Big 12 honorable mention while racking up 40 tackles, 5.5 sacks, an interception and a team-high three forced fumbles while serving as Von Miller's backup as a pass-rushing OLB in the Aggies' "joker" position. The following year, with Miller playing on Sundays for the Broncos, Moore assumed a full-time starting role, finishing with 72 tackles, 17.5 for loss, and 8.5 sacks. Last season, he moved to defensive end (with Sean Porter, another Cowboys invitee, assuming the "joker" role), and blew up, recording 85 tackles (21 for loss) and 12.5 sacks on his way to first-team All-SEC and All-America honors.
The big news vis a vis Moore this Spring was his poor workout performances that, according to media types, caused his draft stock to tumble. At the Combine, he managed just twelve bench press reps (the lowest total among 37 defensive linemen in Indianapolis) and tweaked his hamstring en route to an embarrassing 4.95 second 40-yard dash before packing it up. He improved his bench press mark at Texas A&M's pro day (with 19 reps), adding a 4:37 short shuttle time. Sadly, he was once again unable to continue due to a sore right leg, leaving scouts with a lot of questions about his general commitment, fitness and desire.
His tape offers far fewer questions. Take a look: here he is in the Aggies' bowl game against Oklahoma, and in SEC action against rugged opponents Alabama, LSU and Florida. As the videos demonstrate, Moore possesses very good initial quickness, the flexibility to bend around the edge (the defining feature of top-flight pass rusher) and exhibits good second effort, working hard to get to rival quarterbacks and chasing down running backs from the back side. He uses his long arms (34 3/4 inches) to ward off and disengage from blockers, and is excellent in slanting inside of tackles to get inside pressure and disrupt running lanes. Moore is a very difficult prospect to evaluate; there's a lot to like and a lot to make scouts nervous.
What says our gallery of superscouts? Read on, Macduff, and damned be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!"
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 5th-rated DE; 38th overall
Pass Rush Skills: Good initial burst, lateral agility and body control. Has quickness to change directions and acceleration to explode through gaps. Also shows has a very good motor and pursues hard from sideline-to-sideline. A high percentage of his production actually comes on plays where he's pursuing from the backside. Locates the QB when engaged and will fight to get back in play if he doesn't win initially. Shows very good closing burst and has long arms to lasso the QB. Flashes initial quickness and initial pop to collapse the pocket from inside (11:50 2nd QTR vs. FLA). However, does not know how to turn speed to power as a pass rusher, which is highly concerning. Has some torso stiffness. He lacks upper body power (12 reps on bench was easy to predict based off his tape) and he does a terrible job of using his hands as a rusher. Does not show functional rip, push-pull or swim moves. Pads rise frequently and he gives offensive lineman too big of a target. In order to become an effective NFL pass rusher he must improve his upper-body strength and array of pass rush moves.
Versus the run: Does not show ability to consistently set the edge. Really struggles to anchor at the point of attack. Frequently plays too high and allows blockers to get into his pads. Once offensive linemen start to get a surge, Moore quickly gets on ice skates. Lacks upper body strength to control blocker. Flashes ability to find the ball quickly but also takes the bait and gets washed inside to often. Uses quickness and agility to make a lot of plays in the backfield and gives great effort in backside pursuit.
Versatility: In 2011, primarily played 3-4 OLB before moving to DE in 4-3 scheme in 2012. Plays both RDE and LDE. Also will move inside to rush the passer as a three-technique on occasion. Has the combination of length, speed and athleticism to play multiple positions in multiple schemes in the NFL. However, can he handle the mental load? Plus, he needs a lot of technique work and overall development as a football player, so overwhelming him with responsibilities in multiple schemes might prove to be unwise at least early in his career.
Instincts/ Motor: Inconsistent get-off. Needs to show better focus down-in and down-out. Overall effort very good, though. Will consistently chase plays outside the tackle box. A playmaker with a nose for the football. Seems to be involved in majority of big plays on defense. Won't back down from challenge but not looking to pick may fights either. Very competitive but not overly physical.
Intangibles: Arrested for marijuana possession in summer of 2012. We have spoken to several NFL teams that are highly concerned about his maturity level and work habits. Not dedicated in the weight room.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 5th-rated DE; 25th overall
Strengths: Possesses a lean, lanky build with plenty of room for additional muscle mass. Flashes a quick first step off the snap. Has long, strong arms and uses his hands well to defeat blocks. Generates impressive speed off the edge, including a late burst to close. Good flexibility to dip under the tackle's reach and has the long arms to keep his opponent from grabbing a hold of him. Lines up in a variety of spots and is capable of beating defenders with his quickness, as well as bull rush and a complimentary spin move that he'll use to slip inside or outside. Improving strength as a run defender. Generally does a nice job of sealing off the edge to keep his containment responsibilities. Locates the ball well and pursues with passion. Closes on the ballcarrier quickly and shows good strength for the drag-down tackle. Rips away at the ball when he can, showing the ability to force fumbles (8 over three seasons). Developing use of hands to get into passing windows and when rushing kickers, blocking two kicks in 2012. Showed surprising awareness, lateral agility and straight-line speed when asked to drop back into coverage.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent get-off at the snap and does not appear to have elite explosiveness, overall. Remains a work in progress in terms of getting his hands up as a pass defender, posting only two pass breakups in 2012. Has a tendency to allow his pad level to get too high when in run support and can be knocked back off the ball because of it. Makes a disproportionate number of his tackles five yards downfield due to his hustle and isn't the consistently dominant defender his statistics might indicate.
Compares to: John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons -- Like the Falcons' perennial Pro Bowler, Moore has the potential to rank among the league's top pass rushers whether as a classic 4-3 defensive end or as a stand-up pass rusher out of the 3-4.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 12th-rated DE; not in top 150
Positives: Has big hands and very long arms. Very productive behind the line of scrimmage as a junior. Explosive initial burst. Has a 35 ½ inch vertical leap. Very quick and athletic to shred gaps (effective slanting). Gains extension and tugs free from blocks. Good lateral agility to collapse inside and crash down the line. Good chase effort (back-side pursuit). Shows burst to close. Lined up on the left and right. Was a 20-year-old junior and has room to grow.
Negatives: Marginal Combine performance in every phase - ran, worked out and interviewed poorly. Strength deficient - managed a meager 12 bench press reps at the Combine (19 at pro day). One-year wonder. Too much production was effort-based. Incomplete player. Pops upright off the snap and gets washed inside. Crumbles at the point of attack. Overmatched by double teams. Needs to develop more pass rush variety. Shows hip and shoulder stiffness running the arc. Needs to improve awareness and discipline. Relinquishes rush lane integrity. Can do a better job controlling his body to secure tackles. Was relatively quiet against Alabama. Immature. Has bust potential.
Summary: Wet-behind-the-ears, confounding, explosive edge rusher who leaves you seeking a more complete package, even though he plays faster than he times. Gained high visibility in the fall, but gravity intervened when he damaged his stock at the Combine, then gained 10 pounds and did not show well at this pro day, either. Has potential to pressurize the flanks in an even or odd front but requires a strong veteran locker room and short leash to avoid busting out in a bad way.
National Football Post (Russ Lande): 6th-rated DE; 64th overall
Strengths: Moore is a good athlete that has a very good first step off the snap and the agility to break down and change directions effectively in space. He has a solid build should be able to pack on additional the weight required of his position. He shows the ability to rush from a variety of spots and can string together several different moves when he is aggressive with his hands. He has excellent read and react skills, as he is able to quickly diagnose plays correctly and beat blockers to the POA.
Weaknesses: At times Moore gets too high and passive at the snap and allows blockers to get into his framework. While he flashes the length and hands to defeat blockers, too often he stops his feet and lets his man control him at the POA. Although he is consistently one of the first men moving at the snap he lacks the speed to truly threaten the edge and needs to rely on hand usage to rush the passer effectively. On runs away from him he does not consistently commit to pursuing the ball.
Summary: Damontre Moore made a huge splash in September with six sacks in his first three games (three in the opener against Florida), but I was disappointed with the consistency in his play. His motor seemed to run hot and could throughout the season, as he tended to disappear for significant stretches in most every game of his I evaluated. He has a more polished skill set, especially in terms of his hand usage, than several of the other top level defensive end prospects in this class, but too often he seems content to become a spectator and allow his man to tie him up at the POA. While some may speculate his inconsistency was a result of adding weight and playing with his hand down this year, after previously playing OLB, I think he actually played his more natural position this past season, as he is not an elite athlete and lacks the long speed to consistently make plays in pursuit. His numbers stack up with most any DE in the 2012 draft class, but he doesn't have the same athletic upside as the elite prospects and is a more reasonable value on day two.
As might be expected with a prospect with such high highs and low lows, our scouts are divided on Moore. Rang sees him as a first rounder; Nawrocki (who has a low tolerance for physical weakness) doesn't even have him in his top 150 (Ourlads' Dan Shonka has him as the 39th-best player). Where might the Cowboys place him? That's a tough one. At first, I was certain the Cowboys invited him to Valley Ranch because they feel he's one of the players whose grade merits consideration at #18. The more I think it over, however, the more I believe they think he's a "bend" player (a guy in the 25-40 range) who might fall to them at 47. I'm going to put him in the first round on my 2013 "little board," but with a strong preference that they don't take him there.
Yes, Moore is a talented and productive player. The problem, of course, is that he's been inconsistent, has some character flags, and was one of the biggest stories at the Combine - for all the wrong reasons. In spite of these failings, he's one of the very few prototypical 4-3 defensive ends in the 2013 draft, with good length, agility, burst and change of direction. Furthermore, the Cowboys are desperately thin at DE, and Moore has ideal size and agility to play on either side in Monte Kiffin's scheme, which prefers undersized players with quickness, lateral agility and burst. I'd be a little disappointed if the Cowboys drafted him in the first round; I'd be ecstatic if they managed to scoop him up in round two.
Next up: SMU defensive end Margus Hunt