Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley surprised some when he returned to the Crimson Tide instead of declaring for the NFL after his junior season, but the only surprise this season will be if he’s not taken in the first 10 picks.
The Crimson Tide have had a great deal of success producing NFL linebackers recently with Nico Johnson, Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower and Rolando McClain, but Mosley is the best of the group.
His game vs. the Tigers was deemed a Heisman-worthy performance by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. His stock was already high—Mel Kiper ranks him No. 6 on his big board—but his performance vs. LSU put all of his extraordinary talents on display.
Playing against a power running attack featuring two fullbacks with an average weight of 265-pounds, Mosley filled holes and won isolation battles all night in Tuscaloosa en route to a season-high seven solo tackles and 12 total tackles. He almost had two interceptions and even executed a hand-off on a fake punt.
At 6-2, 234-pounds Mosley can excel as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and play inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme with his diverse skill-set. He can chase down plays from sideline-to-sideline because of his instincts and ability to get off blocks and wade through traffic.
But what makes him a lock to go in the top 10 is his ability to drop in coverage and cover tight ends down the seam as well as flying to the flats to defend running backs out of the backfield. In the new era of the NFL that is imperative for linebackers who aren’t sack artists.
Simply put, Mosley is a three-down linebacker who doesn’t need to come off the field and is the best player on the best defense in college football for the second year in a row. His on-field production is enough to make him worthy of a high first-round pick, but what separates him from other linebackers and makes him special are his unmatched leadership skills and toughness.
Linebackers have been devalued over the past decade unless they are outside linebackers in a 3-4 or you are exceptionally talented like Luke Kuechly who went with the ninth pick. Mosley is exceptionally talented and I would bet he goes before that pick in the 2014 draft. That will make it four straight drafts with an Alabama player taken inside the top-10.
Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and Google and email him at SchmidtPatrick@gmail.com for media inquiries.