Alabama’s inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is expected to be the first off-ball linebacker off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft. The 6’2” 238 pound Butkus Award winner has been named to both the first-team All-American team and was a first-team All-SEC selection in each of the past two seasons. Mosley has appeared in 51 games since stepping on the field for the Crimson Tide as a true freshman, recording 305 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 19 pass breakups and five interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns) over the past four seasons.
Mosley is the unquestioned leader of Alabama’s defense, responsible for calling the plays of one of the more complex schemes in college football. He’s a disciplined player that is clearly well-coached and it’s uncommon to see him make a mistake on the football field.
Like many Alabama defensive prospects before him, Mosley will almost certainly be under scrutiny from scouts who will question whether he’s “maxed out” as a prospect due to the high level of coaching Nick Saban’s staff instills.
Mosley has great length and range for the position, which makes him an attractive fit for either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, with the ability to play on the weak or strong side, or inside at the Mike. He’s got a high football IQ, consistently keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and flowing fluidly to the ball.
One of the best traits Mosley possesses is his ability to fight through traffic in order to make a play on a ball-carrier. He has great hand usage which allows him to shed blocks with ease. This was evident in the 2012 BCS National Championship against Notre Dame. In the following clip, Mosley stays patient, fighting through the trash before seeing his gap and exploding through it to record a tackle for loss.
Mosley is a versatile player, in that he should be capable of staying on the field in any situation, whether that calls for defending the run or dropping into coverage against the pass. This is due to his speed and agility, which allows him to truly be labeled as a “sideline to sideline” player.
In this clip, that range is put on display as he’s initially lined up in his typical weakside inside linebacker spot, before laterally fighting through blockers and staying square with Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson on a bootleg. Mosley doesn’t overpursue and makes the crucial tackle for a loss in the backfield.
Another instance of Mosley’s intelligence on the field came against Tennessee last season. As Tyler Bray takes the snap, Mosley drops into coverage, but reads his keys and sniffs out the screen pass and blows up the play for another tackle for loss.
Additionally, Mosley is excellent when asked to rush the passer In this clip from last year’s contest with Missouri, Mosley just blows through the “A” gap, leveling the quarterback for a sack.
While Mosley is as close to a complete product as they come, one of the only negatives to his game is that he’s not really an explosive athlete. There are times when he’s almost too patient, as he has a tendency to stay in position over a gap and wait for the ball-carrier to come to him, rather than moving downhill.
Overall, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is certainly the best inside linebacker prospect entering the 2014 NFL draft. He possesses every trait you look for in an off-ball linebacker in the modern NFL game. His combination of skills that allow him to successfully defend the run and cover the pass make him an attractive option to franchises seeking a playmaker and a leader in the middle of their defense.