'Why Zack Moss?'
The former Utah Utes standout comes into the NFL with an intriguing skill set to go along with athletic limitations that may limit his career ceiling.
However, Moss does possess qualities that could lead him to seeing early opportunity.
1 - Finishing runs
What you’re getting in Zack Moss is a finisher.
He is one of the most difficult backs in this 2020 class to get to the ground once he gets to the second level and invites contact from smaller defenders.
He has a great combination of short area instincts & anticipatory qualities to go along with the finishing ability to have success in the red-zone.
One of those guys that has a ‘nose for the goal-line.’
The through contact abilities Moss exhibits is what jumps off the tape when you watched him at Utah.
Moss runs with great pad level through collisions and can string together positive engagements due to how he maintains balance through various contact types.
2 - Through contact skill set & post-collision balance
Notice how Moss turns his shoulder through contact.
He does this frequently, and while this can work in his favor in creating additional yardage it can also work against him.
Here we see again Moss turning through contact.
Something that does concern me is that if his habit continues into the NFL he will have to make adjustments to succeed against a different caliber of defenders.
This is how his through contact habits can work against him.
Like I mentioned before, while this can be advantageous, Moss decelerates too often into contact instead of lowering his shoulder through defenders.
Moss is not a rapid accelerator by any means and will undoubtedly struggle if this is not corrected.
This is Moss earlier on in his career at Utah. We see how dangerous he is when he gets downhill and makes winning with leverage a priority.
At the contact point, his height at 5’9 becomes advantageous, and he has great balance through initial contact to continue to gain yards post collision.
This will be reiterated again, but when Moss runs with advantageous leverage he is difficult to bring down during initial contact.
On top of that, we see an uppercutting pad adjustment that Moss weaponizes which makes his already intriguing through contact skill set that much more versatile.
This is one of the more interesting plays of Moss’s career for a couple of reasons.
1 - We see his ability to regain balance and re-accelerate after an awkward joint angle is created by the early engagement.
2 - Impressive that he slightly curves his acceleration pattern to negate the contact of #2.
However, this play would have been stopped around the line of scrimmage in the NFL.
Moss demonstrates below-average capabilities as an accelerator and will rarely be able to make plays like this work at the next level due to his lack of natural, explosive qualities.
Moss is good through contact, but his deficiencies during early acceleration cannot be ignored.
3 - Anticipatory qualities & success during early engagements
Moss’s most efficient skill set are his anticipatory qualities and the solutions he creates during periods of early engagement.
We see the turning through contact once again, and is a maneuver that Moss regularly uses during early engagements as well as during initial contact like you saw above.
It is also important to notice how Moss immediate jumps outside post-spin to allow his quarterback a better path as a downfield blocker
To me, this may be the most impressive run of Moss’s career. This perfectly incapsulates his capabilities as a processor of information and ability to problem solve in a concise manner.
Moss is not a dynamic mover, and does not have a broad lateral skill set like some of his peers in the 2020 class.
However, what Moss does have is the instincts and anticipatory qualities to solve unplanned problems with efficiency like we see here.
Moss is much more adept at finding solutions to immediate issues, and can struggle finding these solutions at the 2nd level.
This is less of a processing error and more so one that displays Moss’s physical limitations as a lateral mover.
A lot of people, including myself see distinct similarities to both Moss and current Chicago Bear, David Montgomery.
But, this is where those similarities end.
Moss does not have a broad lateral skill set and has trouble winning with anything other than power once he hits the 2nd level. Montgomery on the other hand, displays a dynamic lateral skill set and can win with variation rather than being almost solely reliant on leverage like we see a majority of the time with Moss.
4 - Skill set as a receiver
As a pass catching option, Moss is above adequate for the running back position and displays consistent, reliable hands when working in the short to intermediate areas.
His lack of a dynamic lateral skill set limits him as a route runner, but where he will dangerous is after the catch due to how difficult he is to get to the ground upon initial engagement.
As an outlet & underneath option Moss can function with consistency at the NFL level.
He may not have the game-breaking athletic capabilities to take short passes the distance, but he can regularly pick up yards post-catch with his strong through contact capabilities.
We see again, the capabilities after the catch. Moss will undoubtedly have success if given opportunity as a pass catcher.
This is an underrated quality of his.
5 - Inconsistencies through one on one engagements
Earlier I highlighted Moss’s instincts & anticipatory qualities and it shows up in how he can manipulate backers at the 2nd level.
Want to know a big reason why Le’Veon Bell was an All-Pro?
He could do this with consistency.
While, Moss might not be there yet, he shows flashes of being able to do this effectively.
Watch what he does to #41 here.
As far as movement solutions go, this is exactly who Zack Moss is.
A quick slide step with a small hesitation to get him past the incoming safety.
Economy is a big part of Moss' games.
When Moss rids economy and unnecessarily decelerates, he can get himself into trouble.
Momentum & leverage are his best tools and when they aren’t used properly he leaves yards on the field.
6 - Ineffective veering
Moss’s lack of acceleration capabilities come into play here.
Some backs can get away with bouncing (veering) runs to the boundary, Moss is not one of them.
Moss can struggle getting to the perimeter.
Since he is limited athletically, he needs to refine his decision making and get downhill instead of veering towards the boundary.
7 - Play speed
This is why some are down as Moss as a prospect.
He is a below-average accelerator, who will have trouble separating from NFL linebackers & safeties the further he gets downfield.
Again we see the two things that jump out on tape with Moss.
The play strength through contact as well as the below average acceleration capabilities.
8 - Proficiency in pass protection & blitz pick-up
While Moss does have limitations physically, he is at the top of this class when it comes to protecting his quarterback.
Aggressive, aware and physical is what Moss brings to the table in pass protection.
This how he can stay on the field for all three downs, it’s all about opportunity.
At the NFL level he is going to be asked to keep Josh Allen upright, and this is a role he can thrive in.
Even though he will be in a committee with Devin Singletary we can potential see him overtake Singletary on passing downs due to his proficiency as a pass protector.
9 - Landing spot: Buffalo Bills
This is an interesting spot for Moss, and one that severely caps his three down upside in the immediate future. With Devin Singletary having an efficient rookie campaign I am hard-pressed to believe that Moss will step in and take over a significant portion of work. However, Moss does have a presence around the goal-line and in short yardage situations that could lead to a surprisingly high touchdown total, especially if McDermott wants to mitigate the wear and tear on their franchise quarterback, Josh Allen.
As far as a pass catching ceiling, this will largely be up to if he will be used to protect Josh Allen on third downs. If Moss gets a shot at third down opportunities in blitz pick-up and pass protection this will lead to a potential for an uptick in receptions. While, Singletary does remain the better pass catching option of the two, it is important to recognize what Moss brings to the table in pass protection and how that could lead to increased opportunities for receptions.
10 - 'Who is Zack Moss?'
Zack Moss would be an every-down starter in the NFL if this were 2005, but with the game evolving the way it has, we may see Moss as a secondary option in a backfield committee. At Utah, became the leading rusher in Utes' football history with his consistent production, which began during his Sophomore campaign. In 2019, Moss had eight 100 yard rushing performances, as well as six games with three or more receptions.
My areas of concern for Moss begin with a lack of efficiency on a yards per attempt basis. Moss averaged 4.5 yards per attempt or worse in six of his thirteen games in 2019. At the NFL level, Moss may be dependent on volume and a good ecosystem to be effective. The biggest concern with Moss comes from his injury history. Moss suffered a torn meniscus during the 2018 season. Now, usually this wouldn’t be a concern seeing that trimming the meniscus is a relatively easy procedure to recover from. However, Moss’s injury mechanism was of the non-contact variety, and actually happened when he was getting into bed. The potential for a degenerative nature of the injury is what gives me pause. Now, this isn’t a death sentence, but missing additional time with an AC joint sprain and most recently sustaining a hamstring injury at the NFL combine is difficult to overlook especially for Moss’s physical style of play.
His below average play speed and lack of lateral skill set do concern me as well, but Moss does have intriguing capabilities as a between the tackles option. Moss consistently displays an impressive aptitude to problem solve with variation during collisions, and is one of the best pass blocking backs in the 2020 class. As a receiver, he has good hands, and has the ability to make away from frame receptions. Due to his lack of dynamic movement qualities it is difficult to see Moss succeeding away from the backfield as a receiver, but he is capable as an outlet option that can regularly create yards after the catch.
As a fantasy option, Moss will be dependent on volume, and goal-line opportunities to have consistency. Moss is best looked at as an RB4 with upside for more if we see an increase in early career opportunities.
Through contact skill set
Lack of athletic capabilities