NFL Draft dreams came true for 10 Alabama football players, but Dylan Moses has a tougher road after going unpicked | Hurt
Alabama football finished an historic four-year run of NFL Draft success Saturday night, but there was a reminder that every year’s celebration doesn’t always include an invitation to the big party. There is nothing wrong with celebrating numbers, not for the SEC (again eclipsing its own single-season record) or Alabama or the lone, proud choices from Arkansas or Vanderbilt.
But the numbers are made up of people, and not everyone person fares the same. Sometimes a player who has come to the end of his college days can deal with football finished. Sometimes, there are Plan B options that were already in place. Occasionally, there are players who had every right to dream big and didn’t see that dream come true.
Dylan Moses was never overrated, not at 14 years old when he first started attracting national attention, not at 15 with his face on magazine covers, not in 2017 when he came to Alabama from Baton Rouge by way of IMG Academy. Everything was on track.
And then, for reasons that remain hard to fully understand, it was derailed. Four days away from the 2019 season opener, Moses tore an ACL in practice. In the media viewing period that day, Moses was one of the Crimson Tide’s starting inside linebackers. By the time practice was over, he was out for the season, facing surgery.
“I guess I’m always the guy that has to make the decision of whether we practice or whether we don’t practice,” Saban said. “If we practice, we have a chance to be good. If we don’t practice, I don’t see how we can get any execution. There’s risk-reward in everything you do.”
Moses had to spend his time rehabilitating the injured knee, but knew in January 2019, when he had to make a decision about whether to leave early for the draft, that he would have to do so without being able to give certainty to any NFL teams. The choice was to enter the draft like flying into a fog bank (teammate Tua Tagovailoa made that call, although the assurances that possible franchise quarterbacks get from NFL teams are different than those for a linebacker) or come back for another season and hopefully be healthy for 2020. Moses’ father was hesitant. He met with Alabama about insurance options and the decision was made.
The future, though, could have been kinder. He played, but keen observers – including Alabama fans – saw flashes of his sophomore form but not the full package. The year was strange anyway, with no spring practice due to the coronavirus. Moses wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway, but might have done better in his bid to return in a less chaotic atmosphere.
When he did return to the field on Alabama, he didn’t always look right. This March, he spoke openly about playing with a meniscus tear and, after the 2020 season, having surgery for that, too. Instead of the fog lifting, it lingered all the way to the NFL Draft: and no team was convinced enough to choose Moses.
His story is not tragic. There are still opportunities. He will have to go the free agent route, signing with Jacksonville on Saturday and joining a coach, Urban Meyer, who knows what a healthy Moses might be. Other Alabama players have taken that route recently: Cam Sims, Levi Wallace and others. No one says it’s easy, but Moses’ talent hasn’t disappeared.
Hindsight might have suggested a different call in January 2019. That’s the easy route and social media often speeds down that highway at 100 miles per hour. No one knows for sure how that would have turned out either. In the end, we all make decisions and plenty of people – not just Saban, not just the draft analysts who kept projecting him as a first-rounder last summer, but plenty of others – thought he had chosen correctly.
Here is hoping he did, and that time shows it.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt