Unexpected Breakout Player Of The Year: Linebacker Dontay Moch

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Defensive lineman Dontay Moch of Nevada runs a drill during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When many believed that the team could target talents like Luke Kuechley or Courtney Upshaw in the first round, the Bengals didn't bother drafting a linebacker during the 2012 NFL Draft. They took a flier on undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict, but they also traded Keith Rivers to the New York Giants and showed limited (if any) interest in re-signing longtime reserve Brandon Johnson. They haven't even showed much interest at available linebackers through free agency. What that means now is that only four linebackers on the roster have started an NFL game.

Because the Bengals usually carry six or seven linebackers, the remaining crew of hopefuls appears to be fighting for two or three spots. With jams at defensive tackle and cornerback, the Bengals may even choose to only take six. Dontay Moch, Vincent Rey, Roddrick Muckelroy, Vontaze Burfict, and then Micah Johnson, Emmanuel Lamur, and Grant Hunter. Pick two/three.

Dontay Moch didn't see the field at all in his rookie year, but I think he'll be a breakout player in the 2012 season and possibly emerge as the eventual replacement for Manny Lawson as a strong-side outside linebacker in due time.

Unfortunately a preseason foot injury kept him out for a considerable amount of time before migraines significantly hindered his development, sidelining him for the remainder of the season. More recently, a report surfaced that Moch would be suspended 4 games for using a banned substance. Moch tweeted "mistakes happen! learn n move forward" immediately after the report broke, but later said that he hasn't heard anything from the NFL itself. That suspension is currently headed to the appeals process. It's entirely possible that Moch's migraine medication may have caused this suspension, but that's just pure speculation.

Pretty much everything surrounding Dontay Moch's career with the Bengals has pointed to one thing -- bust. But, I think he sheds that label in a big way this year.

People forget that Moch ran a 4.31 at his pro day, and swears he can run in the 4.2s. This ESPN article even says that he once ran a 4.08, which I don't believe, but the point is, he's darn fast. (By the way, among all defensive linemen and linebackers at the NFL Combine since 2006, four of the top seven times came from the 2011 Bengals linebackers - Thomas Howard 4.42 (t-2nd), Manny Lawson 4.43 (t-4th), Brandon Johnson 4.44 (t-6th), and Dontay Moch 4.44 (t-6th)). People forget that Moch broke his school record in his junior year with 20 tackles for loss. In his senior year, he smashed that, tying the WAC conference record with 22 tackles for loss. People forget that Moch has a 42-inch vertical. 240-pound men aren't supposed to jump that high. In fact, no player above 240 pounds has beaten a 42-inch vertical in the last six years.

He's a physical freak of nature, and the production on the field exists existed to back up his ability as a football player. Watch the tape. He's simply a disruptive, game-changing player. And watch or read any interview of his. He's a great guy and a very diligent worker.

The biggest knock of Moch's game is the question -- can he stay on the field? Migraines are a hard thing to beat. They have been a big issue for Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (and his fantasy owners). For Moch, his migraines appeared on the injury report eight consecutive weeks in 2011, spanning from week eleven to the playoffs.

If Moch can beat his migraines (and get that suspension lifted), he essentially becomes an extra third round pick for the Bengals to use in 2012.

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