2014 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Shouldn't Consider Past Alabama Prospects When Evaluating C.J. Mosley

By Cody Strahm
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The pre-draft process, an extra two weeks in length this offseason, has breaded numerous Miami Dolphins‘ rumors — many of which will prove to be merely smokescreens. Through them all, no one outside of the organization is realistically any closer to discovering what direction GM Dennis Hickey will go in the first round.

Offensive line is the obvious choice, but there is a growing belief that the draft’s top four tackles will all be off the board when the Dolphins are on the clock, and selecting from the second-tier group of tackles would be reaching. If accurate, the next most popular choice is linebacker — more specifically, Alabama‘s C.J. Mosley.

An all-around linebacker who can play on every down at seemingly every linebacker position, Mosley is the ideal candidate to upgrade the Dolphins’ “Mike” spot after an overpaid Dannell Ellerbe was exposed — most notably ranking as Pro Football Focus’ 50th-most efficient inside linebacker despite being the sixth highest-paid player at the position in regards to guaranteed money — during his first year in Miami.

Mosley can take on blocks, avoid blocks, run sideline-to-sideline, drop back in coverage with ease and anticipate the play before it happens. Given Miami’s immense talent along its defensive line and its potential to excel in the secondary, a difference-maker in the middle could be the final piece to a top 10 defense.

ESPN draft analyst Kevin Weidl claimed Mosley has “ELITE instincts and eyes” in a tweet earlier this offseason, adding he “vastly improved taking on blocks in tight quarters this year. Definition of alpha.” If true, Mosley appears to be just what the Dolphins need. Selecting him could instantly improve the defense at middle linebacker and would allow Ellerbe to replace Philip Wheeler, who was even more of a liability than Ellerbe in 2013, on the weakside.

However, the thought of taking Mosley in the first round scares some because other Alabama defenders have disappointed in the NFL during Nick Saban‘s tenure. Rolando McClain, who recently retired, headlines a group that includes Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Courtney Upshaw — all former Alabama defensive standouts who were taken during the first or second round of the draft, but have since underwhelmed on their respective pro teams.

According to the theory, Alabama players are so well coached by Saban and his staff that they’ve already peaked heading into the NFL and don’t have the room to grow that prospects from other programs do. One could argue, though, that is a hasty generalization that shouldn’t be unfairly pinned on any player. Every prospect, regardless of what school they play for, is different. Every situation that they enter in the NFL is different too.

Perhaps some players look more polished playing with an elite supporting cast, but there are numerous reasons why a player disappoints in the NFL. Each prospect deserves to be evaluated as an individual as opposed to being grouped into the same category with unique talents and personalities.

Mosley, on film, appears to be a player who would have excelled at any program. Although a talented defensive line may have given him more opportunities to make plays, his ability to win in one-on-one situations and in space had very little to do with the talent around him. No team can completely mask any given prospect’s flaws. Look closely enough, and they’re there. Mosley, although not a perfect prospect, has very few.

“He might not be elite in every category, but it’s tough to find holes in LB C.J. Mosley’s game,” CBS Sports draft pundit Dane Brugler tweeted earlier in the evaluation process. “Very smart and reliable player.”

Claiming Mosley will disappoint at the next level because other Alabama players have without accompanying that argument with a critique of his individual skill set is an exceedingly incomplete assessment.

I happen to believe the Alabama theory has been derived more from coincidence than anything else and has perhaps been exaggerated due to the large spotlight on Saban’s program. The success rates of prospects from other elite programs, you’ll find, aren’t substantially more consistent by any means.

Even if the theory was accurate, there would still be reasons to believe that Mosley could be an exception to it. His ability and potential are that convincing.

If Mosley is still on the board after 18 selections, the Dolphins should consider his talent and his talent alone when contemplating whether or not to make him the pick.

Follow Cody Strahm on Twitter.

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