As our Detroit Lions roster preview series rolls on, we move to the next player that was added via free agency—cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.
Moseley, along with cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, were three additions made by Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes in an effort to shore up a secondary that has lacked top-end talent each of the last two seasons.
Let’s take a closer look at Moseley in the next iteration of our 2023 roster preview series.
Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, Obinna Eze, Greg Bell, Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Derrick Barnes, Jermar Jefferson, Brock Wright, Jerry Jacobs, and Cameron Sutton.
Expectations heading into 2022
Coming out of the University of Tennessee, Moseley went undrafted in 2018 before being scooped up by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent. He would go on to spend the next five seasons in the Bay area, gradually carving out a role for himself on San Francisco’s loaded roster.
In 2019 and 2020, Moseley received significant snaps on both defense and special teams, before shifting to primarily defense in 2021. Headed into 2022, Moseley had worked his way into a starting role at outside cornerback for the 49ers.
Actual role in 2022
5 games (5 starts): 312 defensive snaps, 15 special teams snaps
Stats: 22 tackles, 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 5 PBUs
PFF defensive grade: 70.9 (31st out of 120 qualifying CBs with a minimum 300 defensive snaps)
PFF run defense grade: 58.6 (31st out of 120)
PFF tackling grade: (107th out of 120)
PFF coverage grade: (26th out of 120)
Unsurprisingly to those around the 49ers, Moseley got out to a hot start in 2022 before tearing his ACL in a Week 5 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Prior to his fifth season as a pro being cut short, Moseley was displaying all of the traits that evaluators look for in a starting cornerback. Reaction time, smooth hips, ball skills, and closing speed were all on full display during the first month of the season, and had Moseley turned in a full season of tape at this level—he likely would have commanded a lot of money on the open market.
Outlook for 2023
As of now, the belief is that there will be an open competition between Moseley and Jerry Jacobs for the starting outside cornerback job opposite of Cameron Sutton.
The talent with Moseley is nearly unquestionable at this stage of his career. When healthy, he is capable of producing at a high level against the top wide receiver talent in the NFL. But outside of the talent, can Moseley stay healthy for a full 17-game season?
His 2018 season was cut short due to a dislocated shoulder, missed several weeks of the 2021 season due to an ankle injury, and then the aforementioned knee injury that ended his 2022 year prematurely.
Another question surrounding Moseley is when will he be ready to take the field in 2023? How much of camp will he miss while he is still getting back into playing shape? Thus far, he’s been putting in a lot of offseason work. In OTAs this spring, Moseley was participating in walkthroughs on the second team defense, but still sat through most drills.
“When most guys are traveling and vacationing, he’s here working to make sure he’s ready when we come back for camp,” cornerbacks coach Dre Bly told the Detroit News. “I’m excited to have a chance to work with him. I think he brings a tremendous amount of leadership and experience through our room, and I can’t wait to see what comes from that.”
If Moseley is somewhere close to full strength by the time camp opens later this month, I would bet that he is the starter when the Lions make their way to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the first game of the 2023 NFL season.