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49ers 90-in-90: Emmanuel Moseley will be this year’s breakout player

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

It took two injuries at cornerback for us to find out how talented Emmanuel Moseley was and how well he fit the San Francisco 49ers defense. Moseley is still unknown around the NFL. Offenses targeted him often, considering that Richard Sherman was on the other side and that it likely won’t change in 2020. That didn’t mean it worked, though. Moseley’s success rate was near the top of the league at 62%, nine percentage points above Sherman. Moseley was consistently in position, and that allowed him to make plays on the ball and find ways to disrupt throws.

Cornerback remains one of the hardest positions in the NFL. Because you had success one season doesn’t mean that’ll carry over to the next. That’s why Sherman is Sherman. He’s consistently great. Moseley needs to prove that he’s not just a flash in the pan. If he plays as he did in 2019, Moseley will be starting for San Francisco for the next few years. He was a lot better than fans give him credit. That doesn’t mean Moseley can’t improve, though. Moseley needs to limit the yards after the catch he allowed. That number was 4.4, which was one of the worst in the league. A missed tackle by a cornerback is costly and usually leads to a big play for the offense. That can’t happen this year.

Basic info

Age: 24 (turned 24 on March 25)

Experience: Two accrued seasons

Height: 5’11

Weight: 184 pounds

Cap Status

Moseley is entering the final year of his contract. He’ll make $675,000 this season. In 2021, Moseley will be a restricted free agent. I’ll be curious to see if the team works out an extension with Moseley early in the season if he plays well or risks waiting until March and tender Moseley with a second-round tag.

What to expect in 2020

I believe Moseley is closer to becoming a star than an afterthought. In 2020, we should expect a steady improvement in his game. More confidence, which means playing faster, not second-guessing, and making plays. From Week’s 5-12, Moseley was PFF’s 12th highest-graded cornerback. He allowed one touchdown, broke up four passes, and had an interception.

When I referenced Moseley’s yards after the catch stat above, a good chunk of those came on an 88-yard touchdown against the Cardinals on Halloween. If not for that play, Moseley would have been one of the league leaders in yards allowed during Week’s 5-12. Even with room to grow, Moseley should be even better in 2020.

Why he might regress in 2020

Moseley missed a tackle 9% of the time last year, which is above average. Cornerback charting is fluky from year-to-year, and all it takes is a few missed tackles and plays on the ball, and your stats can drastically change.

It’s tough to imagine Moseley regressing with his style of play, but those same plays where he was in position and made a play, the receiver could make those same plays this year. That doesn’t mean one player or the other is worse. The ball bounces funny in football. Statistically, that is one way how Moseley would regress.

Moseley allowed six receptions last year that went over 20 yards. That’s the one thing you cannot do at cornerback: allow the big play. You can even defend Moseley’s big plays, though. As it turns out, Julio Jones isn’t easy to cover! Also, one of those plays came when the 49ers were scrambling on defense late in the game at New Orleans. Technically, the 25-yard reception came against Moseley.

I don’t have bad things to say about Moseley because he’s not a bad player. If I had to pick a player that will breakout this year, it’s Moseley.