Rarely are teams in a position where they can spend a draft pick on a special teamer that's not returning kicks. The 49ers had that luxury during the 2013 NFL draft and selected linebacker Nick Moody from Florida State in the sixth round with the 180th overall pick.
Moody, a former safety, will play inside linebacker for the Niners but his biggest contribution will likely be felt on special teams. Last season Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden backed up All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. This year, Moody, free agent signee Dan Skuta, and former practice squad player Michael Wilhoite will serve as backups behind Willis and Bowman.
Moody arrived at Florida State as a 6-1, 218-pound safety out of Philadelphia. He redshirted in 2008 before earning significant playing time in 2009. He earned the starting job at rover in 2010, recording 79 total tackles including four for loss, one forced fumble, and one interception (returned 96 yards for a touchdown).
In 2011, Moody only started one game due to lingering injuries and accounted for only 23 tackles. Prior to his senior year in 2012, the FSU coaching staff asked Moody to switch to strong-side linebacker. He was already up to 236 lbs and the Seminoles needed depth at linebacker so the move made sense.
Moody struggled with the switch despite making ten starts at linebacker. He only amassed 20 tackles as he came off the field when the Seminoles went to a nickel package.
A big, physical prospect, Moody can really lay the lumber on ball carriers.
Let's take a look at some strengths:
- Physicality: Even as a safety, Moody lined up a lot in the box and was a big contributor against the run. He was known for his big hits (see below) and physical play.
- Willingness to contribute on special teams: Moody knew special teams would be the key to his professional career. He learned the importance of special teams at FSU and played significantly on both punt and kickoff coverage.
Areas where Moody has struggled:
- Pass coverage: Moody seemed to struggle with some of the assignments as a strong-side linebacker, including covering the tight end or crossing routes. He was often exposed in passing situations, despite being a former safety, leading to a significant reduction in playing time his senior year.
- Adjustment to another new position: It's worth keeping an eye on how Moody adjusts to playing his third position in three years. He has some pretty impressive tutors in front of him combined with a coaching staff that won't ask him to do too much right away.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Moody was one of the best special teamers he had seen at the collegiate level and fully expects him to contribute from day one. I envision he and Skuta being the primary backups to Willis and Bowman with Wilhoite again battling to make the 53-man roster.
Moody has the physical tools and mentality needed to be a force on special teams. Having embraced his role, Moody can only get better. I've seen him absolutely destroy ball carriers at FSU and I am excited to see him covering kicks for the 49ers.
Check out this clip of Moody's hit on current Buccaneers running back and former Florida running back Jeff Demps. If you watch closely you'll actually see the paint from Moody's helmet flying in the air after the hit.