I got in touch with several writers on the college football blogs. I wanted to get their thoughts on the Redskins newest draft picks and ask a few more revealing questions about how these players fit on the team and their chances of making an impact either immediately or down the line. Dimitri Dorlis of Bruins Nation gave us some great information regarding promising cornerback Fabian Moreau.
Cadillactica: Could you give us your impression of what the UCLA coaches thought of Moreau?
Dimitri Dorlis: In 2014, after one preseason practice, Jim Mora took the time to point out Fabian Moreau and say that he was a future NFL cornerback, completely unprompted. That should give you an idea of how highly the coaching staff here thought of Moreau. But crazier than that is that Moreau did not come to UCLA as a cornerback; colleges had recruited him as a running back, and the UCLA coaching staff got him to switch to corner. The fact that he not only made a complete position switch at the D1 Power 5 level but was a very highly-regarded player at his position (before the injury hurt his draft stock) speaks to how well he takes to coaching. I wouldn't say he was a team leader, if only because UCLA under Jim Mora has really been led by the linebacker unit (not surprising when your linebacker crew has included Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, and Jayon Brown) but Moreau was the anchor of a secondary unit that allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the Pac 12 with 12.
Cadillactica: Could you give us a bit of a run down on the type of coverage's UCLA ran? Were they simple? Complex? Which coverages was he best in?
Dimitri Dorlis: UCLA played a lot of Nickel defense, but it was a rather simple coverage scheme that relied on the secondary to make plays. Moreau was constantly out on an island by himself while the safeties played further up to help in run support, but Moreau still led the team in passes defended. There were full games where it felt like the opposing offenses completely ignored whoever Moreau was defending. Fabian is a very physical cornerback, and he excelled in press coverage, but that also led to the irony of UCLA almost refusing to utilize any press coverage, instead allowing a 5-10 yard cushion on many plays (UCLA under Jim Mora is big on the bend-don't-break defensive philosophy, but UCLA's pass defense was so good that most teams chose to attack UCLA on the ground instead).
Cadillactica: This past draft was historically deep at corner, and to my knowledge, since the Senior Bowl Moreau was mentioned in the first round conversation until his injury? What skill do you attribute it to most?
Dimitri Dorlis: I think my first answer fits here to a degree. Again, Moreau came to UCLA as a running back, but made the switch to corner and excelled. He has great physical skills and is a natural at the position. He's also a very smart player - there was a defensive series this past year against (I think) Arizona State where the opposing team tried to streak passes down the sideline against Moreau, and Moreau wisely used the sideline as a second defender to force two incompletions. My feeling is that, had the injury not scared teams, you would have seen Fabian drafted in the second round, if not the first.
Cadillactica: On paper, it seems the Redskins potentially have gone from a weak CB unit to a strong one over the past few years. With Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, and Kendall Fuller in the mix where do you see Moreau fitting in? Is he an all around corner or is he better suited for the boundary or slot?
Dimitri Dorlis: I'm a bit familiar with Norman since it feels like he's one of the two Redskins players who gets mentioned in the news constantly, and Fuller I know from his time at Virginia Tech. I think Moreau is going to end up as an all-around corner at some point, but right now I'd start him on the outside, if only because that's where he played for most of his career at UCLA, and the Redskins coaching staff is probably going to have to teach him how to play slot guys better (this is not to say Moreau can't do this now, but I'm not a big fan of throwing rookies into the frying pan from the start. Better to ease them into the role, especially if your position unit can afford to like I believe the Redskins can).
Cadillactica: The PAC-12 in particular really made a statement on draft night at the position: Adoree Jackson (USC) went in the 1st round, Kevin King and Sydney Jones (both from Washington) went in the second, Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado) also went in the second and his teammate Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado) went in the top of the 3rd. Can you make an argument why Moreau will have a better career than those guys?
Dimitri Dorlis: Count me as one of the people who thinks Adoree is a very gifted athlete that will get murdered in the NFL because he weighs about 5 pounds soaking wet. I do think the Washington duo of Jones and King are very good (with Jones being much better though the Achilles injury hurts him), and Awuzie is also a very good coverage guy. The thing that set Moreau apart, for me, is that all of those guys played on teams that also had good offenses that limited the chances opposing teams had. UCLA managed to have a defense that kept them in games despite having an offense that refused to do anything of note, and Moreau was a big part of that (again, so much so that some teams just chose not to throw in his general direction).
Cadillactica: What would describe as his biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Dimitri Dorlis: Fabian's strengths' include his natural ability and physical gifts. He's a great athlete who took to a new position extremely well. If he has a weakness, it's that he can be a bit too aggressive with his physicality - there were points of his UCLA career that it felt like he was averaging a pass interference call a game, mostly due to being too aggressive in coverage. But I also think he'll be able to get away with more in the NFL, if only because he'll never have to deal with #Pac12Refs ever again.
Cadillactica: Could you sum up his play in a single word or phrase?
Dimitri Dorlis: Overall, it wasn't the best day for Moreau, and UCLA in general, but I also put the video at the play I wanted to highlight, and which shows the kind of player Moreau is. Moreau had previously given up a long pass to Juju Smith-Schuster on the previous drive, but instead of letting that get in his head, Moreau had a great comeback drive, first with good coverage on another long pass to Smith-Schuster, then with the interception 2 plays later with a great diagnosis of the play. Moreau is a gamer, plain and simple.
It goes without saying that most of us hope and expect Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson to play at pro bowl or near pro bowl level for a good chunk of their careers. If the Redskins hit on Fabian Moreau and he lives up to his pre-draft billing as a first rounder the draft class has the potential to be the best in over a decade. With Norman, Breeland, and Kendall Fuller expected to man the top 3 CB spots this year I wouldn't expect much out of Moreau barring an injury in his first year. Yet, I am really excited for what he could become. If Moreau and Fuller live up to the hype the Redskins could potentially have two CB1 type players representing the future of the position on the team in a couple years. Where Moreau will likely make his biggest impact his rookie season is on special teams. He’ll likely have to clean up his tackling technique but his athleticism on the field will be fun to watch on kick and punt coverage. A big thanks to Dimitri for a great Q & A!