Both players have other things in common, outside of being linebackers hailing from the Crimson Tide program. Both were unanimous All-Americans and all-Southeastern Conference selections, with Ryans winning league Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2005 and Mosley capturing the Butkus Award last season.
Perhaps no award epitomizes the excellence at the linebacker position than the coveted Dick Butkus Award. The Butkus Award was formed in 1985 and is one of the elite individual honors in college football. Alabama has produced three Butkus Award recipients in its history. Derrick Thomas was named the recipient in 1988, followed by Rolando McClain in 2009 and Mosley in 2013.
Mosley became the 26th player in Southeastern Conference annals and the fourth in Tide history to twice earn consensus All-American honors. As a senior, he was not only a unanimous choice, but was also selected a finalist for the Lombardi and Bednarik Awards, as well as the Nagurski Trophy. His performance last season saw the Mobile, Ala., product earn team Player of the Week honors an unprecedented 11 times during the 12-game regular season schedule.
Where they might not be similar is in the NFL Draft. Ryans was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by Houston, playing for the Texans until he was traded to the Eagles in 2012. Mosley will not have to wait until the draft's second day to hear his name called, though. Most teams project the two-time national champion winner to be taken during the first round, as his talent is unquestioned.
Like Ryans, Mosley might not have the great size associated with 3-4 inside ‘backers and will likely play in the middle of a 4-3 alignment. He could also return to his college position on the weak-side, as he has very good speed (4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and what separates him from most of the top linebackers in this draft class is his incredible lateral movement, making most of his plays away from his assigned area.
The Tide defender has more than ample speed to pursue long distances and is called a "coach on the field" for his high intelligence. He plays with textbook-perfect tackle technique and excels running sideline-to-sideline, along with performing like a defensive back in pass coverage. Those traits were evident as the weak-side linebacker became the future for Alabama's defense, leading the team in tackles with 107 hits as a junior and 108 more during his final campaign.
Among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players, Mosley ranks fourth with his three interception returns for scores and 17th for total tackles. He finished third on the school all-time record list with 319 tackles, topped by Wayne Davis (327; 1983-86) and Thomas Boyd (324; 1979-82), as he is joined by Woodrow Lowe (315; 1972-75), DeMeco Ryans (309; 2002-05) and Roman Harper (307; 2002-05) as members of the Tide's "300-Tackle Club." His three interception returns for touchdowns tied the Alabama record that was first set by Antonio Langham (1990-93).
University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Mosley has nice overall muscle structure and while not overly thick, he has good definition in his chest, arms and hips. He has a good bubble with tapered thighs and calves, along with well-developed hamstrings. He has the frame to carry additional bulk with no loss in his quickness.
Mosley is a very athletic defender, showing the hip swerve and flexibility you find in a player that some teams might feel will be more advantageous as a weak-side outside linebacker, rather than performing as a classic middle linebacker. He shows suddenness in his initial move off the ball and gets to top speed quickly. He has the lateral agility and change-of-direction agility to slip off blocks and string plays wide (see 2013 Georgia State, LSU and Chattanooga games). He has good strength upon initial contact and, while he is not a "blow them up type," he breaks down well on the move. His ability to quickly turn and run makes him an asset in pass coverage, as he has the foot speed to stay with most receivers through their routes. He is shorter and lighter than ideal and could use more bulk for the inside linebacker position, but he compensates with good explosion coming off the ball and above-average power behind his hits. For someone his size, he moves well in space, thanks to exceptional change-of-direction agility.
Mosley has excellent field instincts and vision. He is not the type that will take poor angles in pursuit, showing the hip action to quickly turn coming out of his backpedal. His ability to read and diagnose could see stay at middle linebacker at the pro level, but his lateral range is also ideal for the weak-side outside linebacker position. He is very alert maintaining eye contact with the ball when working through trash. He picks up traps and pulls easily and shows fluid feet retreating in pass coverage (see 2013 Arkansas and Louisiana State games). He stays focused throughout the play and knows his team-mates' assignments well enough to line other players, along with having the ability to seamlessly slide over and play the other two linebacker spots with no drop-off in production. He plays with savvy and knows what he's doing on every down. He spends a lot of time watching film and preparing for the opponent, so much so, he should be involved with coaches in their game planning.
One thing you notice on film is Mosley's ability to play until the whistle. He is not the type that will let emotions get the better of him, playing with a good head on his shoulders. He is the type that works long hours to succeed. More often than not, you will find him in the film room after practices. He stays focused and plays hard, whether in game action or practices. He handles pressure in the heat of the battle well and will always run to the ball with total effort. He is the type that can get physical with the bigger blockers and will not hesitate to mix it up in the trenches. While he is extremely durable, he is the type that will play through pain and you have to love his work ethic, very much like the 49ers' Patrick Willis.
Key and Diagnostic Skills
Mosley is a natural athlete with excellent instincts and field vision. He is very quick coming off the snap, staying low in his pads while generating quick lateral movements to string the plays wide. He has the natural ability to always anticipate the flow of the ball (see 2013 Colorado State, Mississippi State and Auburn games). He simply excels at reacting and tracking down the ball. The thing you see on film that he is a patient type that plays under control and has no problems identifying what the offense throws at him. Simply put, he is the smartest draft eligible linebacker in the collegiate ranks, with outstanding instincts, especially when reading the quarterback and putting himself in position to make game-changing plays (see 2013 Texas A&M game).
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY
Playing Strength and Explosion
While Mosley lacks the ideal size to take on the larger blockers, he compensates with proper pad level, good strength, excellent field savvy and tremendous instincts. He has enough hand strength to shed blocks quickly, doing a nice job of extending to keep blockers from attacking his body. He has the ease of movement agility to flow to the ball, staying at a proper pad level to extend, wrap and secure as a tackler. He constantly keeps his legs moving on contact, doing a nice job of driving the ball-carrier back (see 2013 Georgia State, Arkansas and Chattanooga games). When he takes on blocks with his hands, he will generally separate and get off blocks quickly. He has the functional strength to take on blocks and shed. He has no problems running downhill to fill the rush lane and plays with good leverage when taking on the linemen.
Mosley has a natural feel for the flow of the ball, showing quick lateral movement and fluid change-of-direction agility. He takes good angles in pursuit and stays low in his pads to deliver a clean wrap-up tackle. He shows explosive acceleration when closing and has a natural flow in his backpedal. The thing you see on film is his ability to run through and around traffic. He gives great effort in pursuit and still plays under control to properly read and adjust to the flow of the ball (see 2013 Texas A&M, Colorado State, Louisiana State and Auburn games). He is the type that will always give total effort and he simply flies to the football, showing that quick initial burst to get in position instantly when changing direction.
Use of Hands
Mosley uses his hands well, showing good strength to jolt and redirect tight ends in pass routes. He plays bigger than his size indicates, showing very good physicality in his game. He uses his hands effectively to keep blockers off his feet and get around trash quickly. He is a pretty efficient natural hands catcher (see 2012 Michigan; 2010 Florida and Georgia State games).
Mosley is a solid wrap-up tackler who extends his arms properly to stalk and secure. He is the type that collides with ball-carriers upon initial contact and has the strength to shed blocks and stay on the ball. He shows ease of movement getting to the ball when working in space. He has the leg drive and strength to get the ball-carrier on the ground instantly. Mosley brings a good thump upon contact and his hits have been known to jar the ball loose from several ball-carriers (see 2013 Mississippi State and 2012 Arkansas games). He brings his arms properly to wrap and is very fluid in his lateral movements to string the play wide. He is not a punishing tackler, but he does explode into his assignment, generating very good pop from his hips to impede the runner's forward progress.
Against the inside run, Mosley compensates for a lack of size and bulk with his change-of-direction agility and lateral movement to slip past blocks. He has the strength to take on the offensive linemen, but can get engulfed when working in-line if he does not protect his chest from the blocker locking on. He does a good job of coming downhill, but is best when using his hands to shed when working near the line of scrimmage, which allows him to fill the rush lane. He plays with good leverage taking on blocks coming off the edge. He has the ability to take on lead blockers and come off those blocks to make plays, as he is very quick to attack the ball-carrier in the hole. Against the outside run, few linebackers in college excel in this area like Mosley. He has the speed and burst to head off ball-carriers along the corners. He is a smart player who stays in control, but also shows urgency in making the play. He has the range to make plays sideline to sideline. His change-of-direction skills lets him cover large portions of the field. He runs to the ball well and has the hand usage to slip off passive blocks. When he closes on the ball, he will usually take good angles. His speed is evident when he simply explodes and accelerates to close. He has that rare extra burst (do not look at his timed speed, he carries his pads well and plays much faster than you would expect) to get to the outside, maintaining balance and body control as he does an excellent job of avoiding trash and cut blocks.
Mosley has the ability to drop off deep in the zone due to his hip swerve. He takes no wasted steps in transition and is quick to turn coming out of his backpedal. He flips his hips properly and plays at a good pad level. He shows no stiffness in his turns and this allows him to drop off quickly. He gets very good depth in his pass drops and keeps his head on a swivel to locate the ball in flight, playing more like a safety than a middle linebacker in that aspect. He looks very smooth in his drops and displays great vision to see the routes developing in his zone (see 2013 Arkansas and Louisiana State contests). In man coverage, Mosley has the quickness of a safety. He can turn and run with most tight ends and running backs. He looks natural maintaining position on the receiver when working underneath. His quick feet allow him to shadow even the speedier receivers on deep routes, doing a nice job of opening his hips to turn and run. He has more than enough redirection agility and flow to the ball quickness to cover tight ends and backs in the short area and always seems to be in position to make plays on the ball (see 2012 Michigan and Tennessee games).
His ball- awareness skills lets Mosley locate the ball quickly. He does a good job of picking up and switching off on receivers, keeping the play in front of him. He has an explosive break on the ball and keeps his hands properly extended to wrap and secure. He is so instinctive, you will rarely, if ever, see him frozen by the tight ends. His understanding of zone concepts and great ability to anticipate the ball in flight allows him to stay on the field for every down. He has that good burst of speed, along with great field vision to anticipate throws and it is rare to see him get locked on the quarterback, as he works more to maintain relationship with the receivers and challenge them for the ball in flight.
Pass Rush and Blitz
While he is an adequate pass rusher and blitzer, the Alabama system calls for their linebackers to stay back more and wait for the play to come to them. Still, he generated 23.0 tackles-for-loss and, despite lacking great size and bulk, it is rare to see him get caught up vs. inside trash. If he does not get a strong push off the blocker, he can get absorbed working inside. He gives good effort as a blitzer, but is more effective flowing to the ball than attacking from the back side (making him a nice fit at either the middle or weak-side positions). In limited opportunities to rush the passer, he did show the speed to close and run down plays (6.5 sacks and 15 QB pressures in 51 games), but is better served finding the lanes and plugging those gaps.
PATRICK WILLIS-San Francisco: Actually, he is part Willis, part Zach Thomas (ex-Miami Dolphin), part Mike Curtis (former 1960s/70s Baltimore Colts great), part DeMeco Ryans (Eagles) all rolled up into one very nice package. There is no question that Mosley is the best linebacker in the collegiate ranks, the type that has the ability to change the outcome of the game. If any team drafts a middle linebacker before this Tide product, that is a move that general manager will soon regret.
Mosley plays with excellent field vision and awareness. He demonstrates the instincts to quickly track down the ball. He has the change-of-direction agility and lateral movements to string plays wide and hits ball-carriers with force, doing a nice job of driving with his legs to push the opponent back through the rush lanes.
The senior linebacker is a well-prepared athlete who can handle whatever the offenses throw at him. He is a patient sort with good read and diagnosis ability, knowing his teammates' assignments well enough to keep everyone in position on the field. He stays focused, is rarely rattled and usually carries out all assignments. He knows how to use his strength to compensate for a lack of ideal size. He plays with good leverage while taking on blocks and can hit and shed with authority. He uses his hands effectively to free himself working off the edge and has the pass coverage skills and fluid hip motion to drop back quickly in pass coverage.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.