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Ledyard | The “other” Youngstown State DE: Avery Moss

(Photo by Merle Laswell/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Ledyard | The “other” Youngstown State DE: Avery Moss

Coming out of high school, Avery Moss surely had his sights set on someday becoming an NFL defensive end, but he probably didn’t think he’d be headed that direction by way of an FCS institution. 15 major FBS programs showed interest in the 6-4, 247-pounder, and Moss received official offers from eight of those institutions.

OCT 08 Youngstown State at Illinois State

October 8, 2016: Youngstown State Penguins defensive end Avery Moss (9) sacks Illinois State Redbirds quarterback Jake Kolbe (16) during a NCAA football game between the Youngstown State Penguins and the Illinois State Redbirds at Hancock Stadium, Normal, IL. (Photo by Merle Laswell/Icon Sportswire) Merle Laswell/Icon Sportswire

Arizona State, Purdue, Arizona, Stanford, San Diego State, Washington, Washington State and Nebraska all came calling before the defender eventually decided to become a Cornhusker. After a redshirt season in 2012, Moss erupted onto the scene the following year, appearing in 12 games and starting three while notching 36 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. His early success had Cornhuskers fans buzzing, but the jubilation would not last for long.

Moss reportedly exposed himself to a fellow student in an off-campus incident, leading to him missing the 2014 season after being dismissed from the university. Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini gave Moss another chance, bringing him to Youngstown State where the former sought-after recruit resurrected his personal life and his career.

After a 2.5-sack season in 2015, Moss returned to dominant form the following year, with 10.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles-for-loss and four forced fumbles. He and Derek Rivers paired up to form one of the most fearsome duos in all of college football, FBS included.

Pop in the tape of YSU vs. WVU and you’ll see one of the more dominant all-around performances by a player in this draft class, as Moss thrashed the Mountaineers redshirt freshman left tackle all game long. The defensive end plays to his strengths, not trying to win with his more limited athleticism, but with power, length and exceptional hand usage.

Moss saw a lot of tackle reads at Youngstown State, meaning when the tackle moved, he moved. He consistently won first contact off the snap with leverage and chest control, not only in this game but throughout his entire season’s worth of tape.

Moss’ arms are 34.5 inches long, so when he unfurls and lands that punch, he’s creating separation between himself and the blocker to be able to disengage in a timely fashion.

A violent temperament with ideal power and technique are quality traits for a run-defending edge, and Moss brings all that to the table and more. Like Derek Rivers, Moss’ football IQ impressed me on tape, as I watched him consistently make good decisions in unblocked situations to fulfill his assignment.

In unblocked situations, the force defender must step down to replace the space vacated by the down-blocking tackle, keeping his eyes active for pullers or kick blocks headed in his direction. Moss steps down aptly here, fights off the slice block, finds the ball and gets down the line of scrimmage for a pursuit tackle all the way across the formation.

Another unblocked situation here, but this time Moss has to defend against a puller.

Moss has the presence of mind to step down, but also swat the left tackle off his angle to the linebacker to help keep his teammate clean. He then steps into the puller using wrong-arm technique, creating a pileup to bounce the runner to the next gap, where his unblocked teammate is waiting to clean up. Fantastic play.

I would describe Moss as a slow-burn pass rusher, not a truly explosive cornering threat or a guy that will play speed-counter games on the outside, but a power rusher who can work you off balance with bull rushes and hand techniques.

He’ll vary his plays speeds up and then suddenly flash by his opponent with an impressive move like this arm over.

Strong punch to the chest to gain control, hesitate for a second to lull him to sleep, burst inside with a quick swim move.

Moss isn’t very flexible when turning the corner, but he’ll flash the ability to use his hands to create a softer edge for himself to flatten to the quarterback. Terrific forklift here to find a leverage point under his opponent’s outside arm and exploit it.

Moss’s bull rush has some effectiveness as well, with heavy hands that can get his opponent reeling when he lands them inside the tackle’s frame.

As fun as Moss’s tape is, there’s a lid on his potential. He’s an average athlete without a really well-developed pass rush plan, and that limits his effectiveness on passing downs off the edge. As our own John Owning pointed out on Twitter, Moss also false-steps out of his stance too often, slowing his get-off and ability to threaten the edge.

He’ll lose outside contain at times on the edge simply by being too pre-occupied with destroying the opponent across from him, and he may not have the range to cover to the sideline against quicker backs bouncing outside.

I think Moss’s best early usage in the NFL is as a strong side base 4-3 defensive end with the ability to kick inside as a sub-package 3-technique on long and late downs. His pass rush style is more linear than it is bendy, and Moss could benefit from taking a directly vertical path to the quarterback given his strong initial push at the point of contact on passing plays.

At the very least he’ll help collapse the pocket, and as his pass rush moves evolve into something more dynamic, he’ll be able to play a poor man’s Justin Tuck or Robert Ayers role for a team inside. He also has the versatility to play some 5-technique in a 3-4 front with his length and power.

Moss may never be an every-down, 8-10 sack starter in the NFL, but he can be an important day three addition to a team’s defensive front arsenal.

In today’s NFL, those rotational presences that can help you win on money downs are more important now than ever before, and I’d expect Moss to start generating interest from teams in the fourth or fifth round next weekend.

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Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard has been writing about the NFL draft for several years now, and is thrilled to be bringing creative content and unique analysis to NDT Scouting. He lives with his wife Brittany and four-month old daughter Caylee in mid-western Pennsylvania. Jon is also the host of the Locked on NFL Draft and Breaking the Plane podcasts, while covering the Steelers for scout.com. The Office, LOST, weightlifting, ultimate frisbee, grilling, Duke basketball, and all Pittsburgh pro sports teams are his greatest passions.

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