The New England Patriots selected DL Zach Moore (projected as a fourth or fifth-round pick) with their sixth-round pick (198th overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft. Moore became the first Patriots’ draft pick to ink a deal, signing a four-year contract with a $102,200 signing bonus on May 15. Moore’s signing bonus is $10,000 more than last year’s 198th overall pick, defensive tackle Chris Jones.
The 6-foot-6, 269-pound Moore lacks experience because he played D II at Concordia-St. Paul. But he ran a 4.84 40 at the NFL Combine, so he is fast enough and also strong enough (23 bench press reps at 225 pounds) to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme; and he has experience in both. Moore is quick off the snap, has length and is athletic. He is flexible and possesses rare leaping ability for his size. Moore has good closing speed and can range to make tackles. He averaged a sack per game while in college and lined up at almost every spot on the defensive line as a three-year starter (31 career starts). Moore is hardworking and coachable, which Patriots head coach Bill Belichick must love.
Moore needs to learn how to convert speed to power, because he does not currently physically dominate marginal competition. He plays too tall and he needs to get better at defending the run. He is very ineffective when he is double teamed and also needs to develop as a pass-rusher.
If you want to see the kind of character Moore has, just look how he handled being ruled academically ineligible for his junior season at Concordia because of a coach’s error. It wasn’t Moore’s mistake and some people may have given up, but he didn’t. Moore continued to work, got back on the field and got his degree in criminal justice.
Moore (the only DE the Patriots drafted this year) is the sixth DE the Patriots have on their roster, along with Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith, Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette. That should allow Moore to truly make a run at roster spot, if not for the 2014 season, then maybe for the 2015 season.
Moore has a lot of raw talent and just needs some fine tuning so he can truly develop as a pass-rusher and as someone who can play the run. Patriots linebacker coach Patrick Graham and defensive line coach Brendan Daly should be able to help Moore with his technique.
Moore is a 24 year-old rookie, so that is working against him, and he is a work in progress. But with his size and speed and his work ethic, he could have a huge ceiling. Plus, he only cost the Patriots a sixth-round pick. The risk/reward ratio is in the Patriots’ favor here.