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Zack Moss embodies what the Seahawks want in their running backs

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Valero Alamo Bowl - Utah v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While the answer to the question of whether the Seahawks will draft a running back next week or not seems certain to be “yes,” there are two questions that hang over that certainty: At what point in the draft will they do so? And, who will the running back be?

With several more pressing needs still to be filled, it seems unlikely Seattle will look to add a tailback at the top of the draft—though it can’t be put past them, having used first- and second-round selections on the position previously. The sweet spot for the Seahawks to target a running back should be in the middle rounds, anywhere from the back-half of round three to round five.

It just so happens that in that range falls a runner whose skill set will be irresistible to Pete Carroll and Seattle’s personnel group: Utah’s Zack Moss.

Though he is shorter than the running backs the Seahawks usually draft, at 5-foot-9, Moss packs 223 pounds into a well-built frame and uses every bit of it when carrying the football.

Moss’s testing at the Scouting Combine suffered as a result of a hamstring injury he attempted to push through. Though his 4.65-second forty-yard dash and 33” vertical are middling, neither are representative of the speed and explosiveness he plays with.

The former Utah Ute’s athletic ability shines in two of his go-to moves in the backfield; his jump cut sees him shift a gap over with tremendous fluidity and ease, and he has a thrilling spin move that consistently leaves defenders grasping at air. Moss’s feet are excellent in tight spaces, and it furthers his ability to create an additional yard or two at the end of a play.

Moss’s vision is excellent in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage, where he makes the correct read and hits the hole with no wasted movement or hesitation. At the second- and third-level, Moss is able to spot and use his blockers, negate angles and make defenders miss. His vision and ability to create is among the best in his draft class—not only does Moss keep runs alive with his ability to see open space, but he has the change of direction ability to execute most cutbacks. During Carroll and John Schneider’s press conference, following day one of the 2018 NFL Draft, Rashaad Penny’s elusiveness rating was cited as a reason for the selection. In the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s Moss who leads the group in Pro Football Focus’ elusiveness rating, with 0.38 missed tackles forced per carry in 2019.

Similar to Chris Carson, Moss’s burst is mostly contained to the line of scrimmage and the second-level. Though he won’t be a home run hitter, he is very quick out of cuts and can shoot through gaps untouched—aided by the ease with which he brushes through arm tackles. He can wheel away from linebackers when he gets into space but just doesn’t possess the long speed to sustain.

Ultimately, it will be Moss’s physicality that draws Carroll and Seattle to him. His mark is left on defenders every time he touches the ball, as he seeks out the opposition to deliver punishment. On outside carries, Moss locks out his arm and shoves tacklers to the ground violently with a stiff arm; between the hashes, he finishes every touch violently, lowering his shoulder and maximizing yardage. Moss’s willingness to drive his legs on contact and finish is among the best in his draft class.

Moss was productive in the passing game, hauling in 66 passes for 685 yards during his time at Utah. The softness of his hands at the catch point, and intelligence in finding the football, suggest he’ll be able to contribute in the passing game as a pro. His toughness and elusiveness as a runner extend to after the catch, and while he’ll likely end up in a rotation in the NFL, he is a player with three-down capability. A supremely willing blocker in pass pro, Moss does get caught on his heels but should bring the physicality and temperament to improve with NFL coaching.

The Seahawks have held a visit with Moss over FaceTime, and will surely be interested in drafting him if the opportunity arises. He can immediately both help to spell Carson and fill the void left by Rashaad Penny, should the third-year runner start the season on the PUP list.

With bruising physicality and high-level elusiveness, Moss embodies what Seattle looks for in their tailbacks, and within 10 days, he could very well be a Seahawk.