2020 NFL draft: Utah RB Zack Moss has first-round talent but major injury concerns

Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft, which starts April 23, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five and 10 at a time, followed by in-depth reports on our top 50 players. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney

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60. Michigan EDGE Josh Uche

6-foot-1, 245 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.86

The lowdown: Uche didn’t start a single game at Michigan for his first three seasons but opened eyes in 2018, notching seven sacks in a part-time pass-rush role. He then parlayed that into a second-team All-Big Ten senior season in 2019 with 35 tackles (11.5 for loss), a team-high 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles after adding 30 pounds prior to the season. Uche could have come back for a fifth season but opted to declare for the 2020 NFL draft.

Uche’s size makes his NFL projection tricky. He’s unusually short for a typical pass rusher, which was his best skill in a limited college role, and lacks desired bulk to play on the edge. Uche earned some experience as a moving piece in Don Brown’s defense, lining up as an off-ball linebacker, covering the slot and even dropping sparingly into a safety-type role.

Watch this play from the Penn State game in which Uche (No. 6, lined up at the snap just to the right of the umpire) first fakes the blitz and then drops nearly 50 yards to get a hand on the underthrown pass to speedy KJ Hamler:

Watch Josh Uche turn and run 50 yards, making a play on the ball.

Uche’s long arms (33 5/8 inches, nearly the same length as Ohio State’s Chase Young) mitigate his short stature to a degree, and his athletic traits suggest that he won’t need to be pigeonholed into a singular rush role. He can turn and run pretty well, with oily hips and nice closing burst. Still, he has work to do as a run defender, especially against well-coordinated blocking schemes (see Army game) and must learn how to shed blocks in space better.

As a rusher, the twitchy Uche knows how to convert speed to power well and gave Senior Bowl blockers a handful in the one-on-one drills. His hands are strong and purposeful, allowing him to gain leverage against bigger blockers. Uche’s effort, edge-carving skill and closing ability can be used smartly by a creative defensive coordinator as he unlocks his full potential and develops better situational and positional instincts.

Uche’s health and durability (torn meniscus in 2016, stress fracture in his foot in 2017, hamstring injury suffered at Senior Bowl in 2020) must be considered. He was frustrated by injuries early in his career, which slowed his development and boiled over into a disagreement with Brown over playing time (Brown challenged Uche and later praised his preparation and called him a student of the game).

Uche reminds us a bit of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2005 fifth-round pick, Trent Cole. Questions about Cole’s size (pre-draft weight of 237 pounds) hurt him following a college career with 238 tackles, 19 sacks, 48 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles at Cincinnati. But Cole had a productive NFL career (90.5 sacks in 178 career games) because of his desire, rush talent and ability to add good weight during his career. This might be the road map for Uche, beginning his career as a situational rusher and adding responsibilities along the way.

By the numbers: Uche played fewer than 700 snaps on defense in four years at Michigan, with 470 of those coming in his final season. And the 470 represented only 53.2 percent of the Wolverines’ defensive snaps. Uche’s career high for game snaps was 68 against Army this past season, and he never played more than 42 in a game the remainder of the season (and no more than 37 in the final seven contests).

Interesting fact: Uche’s parents emigrated to the United States from Nigeria, and his father, Emmanuel, didn’t allow Josh to play football as a freshman or for most of his sophomore year of high school to focus on his academics. Uche returned to football full time after transferring high schools but struggled to attract recruiting attention until Brown — then at Boston College — started wooing him. When Brown left for Michigan, Uche committed to the Wolverines.

Draft range: Rounds 2 or 3

59. Dayton TE Adam Trautman

6-foot-5, 255 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.87

The lowdown: The story of Trautman, a skinny high-school QB turned NFL tight-end prospect, is simply incredible. That’s why Trautman potentially being the first senior tight end drafted this year is one of the best stories of this cycle.

Growing from 176 pounds as a high-school junior to nearly 75 pounds heavier at the 2020 NFL scouting combine, Trautman caught 70 passes for 916 yards and 14 TDs in 11 games in 2019, including huge efforts in an upset over Indiana State (11 catches, 132 yards) and wins over Jacksonville (6-107-4 receiving) and Valparaiso (10-122-3 receiving) despite being double- and even triple-covered most of the season.

Trautman exhibits really nice build-up speed as a pass catcher and natural hands — two drops on 95 targets as a senior and zero drops in three days of Senior Bowl practices plus the game at week’s end. He will fight through contact to make plays and times his leaps for jump balls very well, especially in the red zone, showing nice body control.

Dayton TE Adam Trautman is a fascinating 2020 NFL draft prospect. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Trautman is a bit of a mixed bag, physically and athletically speaking. He possesses very good height and weight for the position, and his exceptional 3-cone drill time (6.96 seconds) was better than all but four wide receivers at the combine. Trautman also logged nice workouts in the vertical jump (34 1/2 inches) and short shuttle (4.27 seconds). But he measured with below-average arm length (32 5/8 inches) and hand size (9 1/2 inches) and turned in average to below-average numbers in the 40 (4.8 seconds), broad jump (9-foot-6) and bench press (18 reps).

Although he dominated as a blocker at the FCS level and held his own in this department among the better Senior Bowl competition, Trautman’s expectations at the NFL level must be put in perspective. He lined up extensively in-line (nearly 80 percent of his snaps as a senior) but also was split wide and in the slot and also took a few snaps as a lead blocker in the backfield. Trautman spoke openly at the Senior Bowl for his desire to be a trusted blocker at the next level.

Prospect comparisons for Division II players are tricky, but we can see overlap of Trautman’s skill set to a player such as the Buffalo Bills’ 2019 third-round pick, Dawson Knox, another highly athletic former QB whose development was a tick behind other tight ends last year. Trautman, however, could be drafted higher than Knox was as the 97th pick.

By the numbers: Trautman averaged 83.3 receiving yards per game, being held to 82 yards or fewer in only four of his 11 games.

Interesting fact: Along with Trautman’s stunning development as a prospect — having never caught a pass in football prior to 2016 — there’s the fact that Dayton hasn’t produced a draft pick since 1977 and hasn’t had an alumnus log a single NFL regular-season game played in nearly 45 years.

The Flyers’ Obi Toppin, a potential lottery pick, also could come out for the NBA draft this summer. If so, Dayton will have draft picks in both sports in the same year for the first time since 1976.

Draft range: Top-75 pick

58. Utah RB Zack Moss

5-foot-9, 223 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.87

The lowdown: Moss has been one of college football’s best runners since the start of the 2017 season, but injuries also have been a big part of his story. Moss appeared poised to declare early for the 2019 NFL draft before suffering a strange knee injury that ended his 2018 season.

And though Moss turned in a tremendous final season, rushing for 1,416 yards (6.1-yard average) and 15 TDs, he also missed time with a shoulder injury. After skipping the Senior Bowl, he gutted through a hamstring injury at the combine and might not get a chance to work out again amid coronavirus concerns.

Injuries plagued him nearly every season, raising major durability concerns. But Moss’ extreme toughness and run skill speak for themselves. The Utes’ all-time leading rusher pinballs through contact while maintaining his balance beautifully and has a knack for churning his feet in traffic and executing sharp cuts to gain extra yards that other backs wouldn’t earn. Moss flashes an excellently timed spin move and possesses great anticipation and patience for allowing holes to open. He’s just so smooth as a runner, even while displaying such toughness.

Utah RB Zack Moss has outstanding run skills but also a long injury history. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Moss also has shown a natural feel for pass catching, hauling in 85.7 percent of his targets and averaging an impressive 10.4 yards per catch over his career (13.8 as a senior). He also shows a willingness to throw his body in harm’s way as a pass protector, even if the results aren’t always ideal (see Pac-12 title game vs. Oregon). Fumbling — two or more in each season — also has been a bit of a persistent concern.

We’ve seen some pretty good style comps for Moss, such as Kareem Hunt and Marshawn Lynch, but there also is a Le’Veon Bell quality to his game, with his patience, well-timed cuts and spins and underappreciated receiving talent. Moss has no known character concerns and was lauded for his leadership and toughness, as well as his serious demeanor.

Still, health is Moss’ biggest concern and is one of the few reasons he didn’t crack our top-50 prospects.

By the numbers: After catching only two passes for 7 yards in his first five games of 2019, Moss hauled in 26 balls for 380 yards and two scores over his final eight games.

Interesting fact: A cousin of former Hurricanes Santana and Sinorice Moss, the Miami-bred Moss was committed to Miami (Fla.) but reneged when head coach Al Golden was fired in 2015. Instead, the 3-star recruit joined his fellow Hallandale (Fla.) High School teammates, Tyler Huntley and Demari Simpkins, in Salt Lake City.

Draft range: Round 3

57. Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler

6-foot-2, 188 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.87

The lowdown: Dantzler transformed from a high school QB to become one of the better cover corners in the SEC. Studying under Bulldogs DB coach (and former NFL DB) Terrell Buckley for four years, Dantzler earned attention as a redshirt freshman when he picked off Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson in their bowl game. But he started 22 games over the next two seasons, intercepting four passes and deflecting 17 more before declaring early for the 2020 NFL draft.

Dantzler is a lean, high-cut cover man who can press effectively. He likes to bait opposing quarterbacks and go for plays on the ball. He isn’t all that twitchy or overly physical, but he has shown a fearlessness in combating the SEC’s best receivers the past two seasons and wasn’t tested all that much (29 targets in nine games) in 2019, as opponents respected Dantzler’s ability — and had more success going after the Bulldogs’ other DBs, to be fair.

However, his aggressive style can work against him. Dantzler sometimes has trouble locating the ball in coverage and has been toasted by back-shoulder fades. Here was the one TD pass Dantzler allowed in 2019, playing off-coverage against Auburn’s Seth Williams but still allowing him to get behind him and misplay the fade:

This is the one touchdown Cameron Dantzler allowed in 2019.

Dantzler has really nice movement skills for a longer corner, as he can turn and mirror well in coverage often, but questions about his long speed were raised when he turned in a shockingly slow 40-yard dash at 4.64 seconds. To put that into perspective, only one cornerback 190 pounds or lighter running a 40 slower than 4.6 seconds is believed to have been drafted higher than the fifth round in the past 20 years: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 second-rounder Johnthan Banks, who coincidentally also went to Mississippi State. 

If Dantzler isn’t able to perform a better 40-yard dash prior to the draft, it figures to hurt his stock significantly. There were already concerns about his lack of bulk, as well as missing time last season with injury.

By the numbers: Dantzler turned in a dominant performance against Kentucky in 2019, being targeted five times and allowing zero catches while batting away three passes — all of those coming on one drive. His one negative in that game was a pass-interference call near the goal line that set up a Wildcats touchdown, but the Bulldogs won handily.

Interesting fact: Dantzler’s girlfriend, Cierra Shinault, gave birth to their son, Cameron Dantzler Jr., on May 26, 2019.

Draft range: Rounds 2 or 3

56. Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara 

6-foot-4, 252 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.88

The lowdown: Okwara’s final season came to a disappointing end when he suffered a broken left fibula in November, and he wasn’t able to perform at the Senior Bowl or combine (other than the bench press) because of the injury.

Before getting hurt, Okwara flashed first-round athletic traits. He reportedly ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s Junior Day in 2019, reportedly was clocked at 21 mph during the 2018 season and put up 27 reps on the bench in Indy — a shocking total for a man with 34 3/8-inch arms.

Although his pass-rush production was limited in terms of sacks (outside of a few big games), Okwara supplied consistent pressure for the Irish. He has an outstanding get-off, can bend the edge with ease and can close in a hurry. He’d be well-served to clean up his pass-rush arsenal a bit, but Okwara has the kind of moldable traits that absolutely project to the next level — either as a stand-up rush end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Okwara has made some freaky plays in college, such as a tipped-pass INT against North Carolina, an incredible sideline INT against Michigan (turning and dropping 15 yards in coverage) and a wild strip sack against Virginia. You’d love to have seen that translate to more consistent sack production, but his 40 hurries on 314 pass-rush snaps in 2018 and his 23 hurries on 202 pass-rush snaps in 2019 (per PFF) show how he impacts games.

The element of his game that needs work is against the run. Okwara appeared frustrated in games where opponents pounded the rock (see Navy in 2018, Louisville and Michigan in 2019) and limited his pass-rush opportunities. Okwara looks occasionally helpless stacking and shedding blockers in the run game and missed a slew of tackles the past few years.

Still, this is a pass-rushing league and Okwara brings that juice. He feasted on USC’s Austin Jackson, terrorized Virginia in a dominant performance last season and has enough upside to make him an early-impact defender in passing situations.

By the numbers: Okwara finished his 35-game college career with 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, with 5.5 of those sacks and three of those FFs coming in two games — 2018 at Northwestern and 2019 vs. Virginia.

Interesting fact: His older brother, Romeo Okwara, plays for the Detroit Lions. Julian was 8 and Romeo was 10 when they moved with their family from Nigeria.

Draft range: Assuming his leg injury won’t hurt his draft stock too much, we feel Okwara should be a second-round pick. National Football Scouting gave him a first-round grade entering the season, and we suspect he would have landed there with a healthy final season.

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