Third Round, 66th Pick
In today's NFL, linebackers can be asked to wear a lot of hats in their duties at the second level of the defense, just as defenses themselves change sets and personnel packages depending on the game situation.
Connecticut's Sio Moore is already way ahead of the curve, demonstrating the ability to line up anywhere and do just about anything that a team would ask their linebackers to do. What does this prospect have to offer beyond versatility?
Moore can line up inside or outside in both three- and four-man fronts, and he can even put his hand on the ground and rush the passer as a 4-3 defensive end. He is strong, instinctive, decisive and smart. Moore is as comfortable playing in space as he is clashing with bigger opponents in the trenches. He is a physical linebacker who can shed blocks and blow up a ball-carrier. Moore is almost always moving toward the ball and his aggressive mindset presses the issue on most plays.
His ability to recognize and diagnose plays allows him to make a lot of plays on the opponent's side of the line of scrimmage. He is so good as a pass-rushing linebacker that Moore would be draftable on this skill alone.
Moore isn't an especially swift or quick linebacker. He doesn't have top-end range and his movement in the open field is a bit choppy. Although he puts himself in position to make interceptions, Moore doesn't have the natural hands to seal the deal.
Even though his tools don't represent a lot of his value, Moore had a terrific combine. At 6'1", 245 pounds, he has the size to play any role, and his 38" vertical, 4.65 40, and 29 bench-press reps underscore his ability to be a three-down linebacker who can play the run and pass, in addition to rushing the passer. With 33 5/8" arms, he can remain in a role as an edge-rusher despite the lack of NFL edge-rusher height.
Moore is obviously a highly intelligent player, juggling the responsibilities of many different linebacker positions in the UConn defense. His motor runs hot, and he does not give up plays that initially go away from him. Moore is a high-character player with intense competitiveness who will be an asset to his team's culture.
Whether they lined up in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, Connecticut put Moore in every imaginable linebacker spot. Inside or outside, strong side or weak side, rushing the passer or dropping into coverage, Moore can do it all. He also lined up at 4-3 defensive end on passing downs and held his own against offensive tackles.
At home in man or zone coverage, Moore processes what he sees very quickly and can stay with offensive players who are more athletic than he is.
In zone, Moore knows when to close downhill and does so with excellent closing speed. He instantly recognizes plays that are coming to his area and presses the issue with the receiver.
In man, Moore hustles and rarely allows big yards after a catch. His high football IQ will put him in the right place at the right time, but he has trouble securing the interception.
Moore is not just an adequate edge-rusher, he's very good. He isn't a quick-twitch athlete, but Moore still exhibits a good enough first step and burst to create pressure. He bends and turns the corner like a defensive end should, and Moore engulfs a quarterback when he has the chance. He can also stand up like a 3-4 OLB, and he can bullrush a weaker offensive player with a great initial punch.
Moore's footwork as a rusher is excellent, and he can re-route to find lanes to the quarterback as they develop. Inside blitzes are also effective, and Moore knows how to get his arms free and up to disrupt passing lanes when he doesn't reach the passer. His portfolio of pass-rush skills is a big plus in his value.
Against the Run
With instinctive flow to the play, Moore is usually in the middle of whatever the offense is trying to do on the ground. He is stout enough to set the edge when he is an outside linebacker, but Moore can also penetrate through gaps or close down the line and make plays in the backfield. He is strong enough to stalemate bigger blockers, and Moore can drive smaller blockers into the path of the running back. Just like against the pass, Moore finds many ways to make an impact against the run.
Read and React
As a hyper-aware linebacker, Moore is able to naturally flow to the play and explode downhill at the moment of truth. He understands when to stay in his lane, when to stretch plays outside and when to shoot the gap. He is a relentless player in pursuit, and Moore does a great job reacting to a quarterback's strategy to elude his pass rush. Screens and dumpoffs can get blown up by Moore, and he is usually excellent when it comes to diagnosing the action.
Moore is usually a form tackler who hits with a thud. He is strong enough to whip a running back or quarterback to the ground. He can be eluded in the open field by a quick back, and sometimes the form on his tackling isn't sound, but overall this is a good area of Moore's game.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
A defensive coordinator is going to love Moore. His best home might be 4-3 SLB with his ability to cover tight ends and rush the passer, but he can fill many roles in many fronts and personnel sets. He'll also be a big contributor on special teams early in his career. Moore looks like a three-down linebacker in any defense, with a diverse set of roles and responsibilities.
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