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Analyst: Moreland Could Be 'Middle-Round' Pick

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South defensive back Jimmy Moreland (17) of James Madison reacts after an interception during Senior Bowl practice on Thursday in Mobile, Ala. (Associated Press)

HARRISONBURG — The past two weeks have given Jimmy Moreland the platform to showcase the skill set he used throughout his career at James Madison.

On an all-star game circuit, Moreland concludes his tour in front of NFL general managers, coaches and scouts today when he becomes the first JMU product to ever play in the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on the NFL Network.

Last week, the cornerback had a tackle, pass breakup and a 61-yard return on a missed field goal during the East-West Shrine Game.

“He’s got ball skills,” Tony Pauline, an NFL Draft analyst and the publisher of DraftAnalyst.com, said of Moreland on Friday.

During his time at JMU, Moreland set a school record for interceptions with 18 and interceptions returned for a touchdown with six.

“He played well all three days of Shrine practice,” Pauline said. “He’s able to find the ball in the air. He’s very sticky to the receivers, doesn’t give up very much room and then [on Thursday] he basically was locked on [Clemson wide receiver] Hunter Renfrow.”

Renfrow was a two-time College Football Playoff national champion with the Tigers, but Moreland, who helped the Dukes win the 2016 FCS national title, stepped ahead of a pass intended for the wide receiver and swatted the ball away during a red-zone drill at Senior Bowl practice on Thursday.

According to Pauline, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Moreland is an ideal defender for a zone defense.

As a senior at JMU this past fall, Moreland was a consensus FCS All-American and the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s probably going to fit in a zone-type system,” Pauline said. “The New York Jets are going to need a nickel cornerback. That’d probably be a good fit.”

Earlier this week Moreland said he had spoken with the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the week of the Shrine Game.

If Moreland is selected during the 2019 NFL Draft, which begins April 25 in Nashville, Tenn., he’ll be the first JMU player chosen since the Arizona Cardinals selected former offensive lineman Earl Watford in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

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South defensive back Jimmy Moreland of James Madison leaps for an interception during Senior Bowl practice on Thursday in Mobile, Ala. (Associated Press)

“With Moreland, the problem is his size,” Pauline said. “It’s not a stigma of a small school guy. Carson Wentz was the second player in the draft not too long ago, so if you go to the Senior Bowl and play well, they’re going to select you high.

“His issue is that he’s under 6-foot tall and there are a lot of teams that do not like corners that are under 6-foot tall. But Avonte Maddox was under 6-foot tall and knocked it out of the park last year at the Shrine Game and was drafted late by Philadelphia and played very well in the league as a rookie.”

Where Moreland can make up for his lack of size is with his speed, Pauline said.

“It’ll come down now to how fast he runs,” Pauline said. “A smaller guy like that has got to run really fast, and really fast for a smaller guy like that means in the mid to high-4.4s.

“If he runs in the 4.55s in the combine, he’s going to drop into the late rounds. If he runs in the mid 4.4s, he’s probably going to be a middle-round choice.”