For better or worse, the 40-yard dash is a significant factor in helping to determine an NFL draft prospect’s worth, especially at a skill position like running back.
Zack Moss ran the 40 twice at the NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 28, and neither effort sufficed.
One of a school-record nine prospects at the Combine, the University of Utah’s all-time leading rusher ran a 4.72 on his first attempt at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, followed by a 4.65, making him the fourth-slowest of the 28 running backs to run the 40.
It was revealed later that evening that Moss had tweaked his hamstring earlier in the day during other Combine drills, but he wanted to power through the rest. Either way, that 40 time would not do. That wasn’t going to be a problem with Utah Pro Day slated for March 26. Moss would get his hamstring right, run the 40 again in Salt Lake City, and the 40 at the Combine would be an afterthought.
The COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas. In the wake of the Pac-12 and the Utah athletic department suspending all athletic-related activities, Utah Pro Day was axed, which left Moss and his agent, Jamal Tooson, surveying their options.
“We were working closely with the University of Utah, reaching out to them to see if it would be canceled,” Tooson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “When I was given confirmation they wanted to reschedule pro day, we needed to get ahead of the curve, get that workout done and get it to teams.
“Zack’s 40 was certainly one box teams had questions about. With the hamstring injury, he hadn’t run consistently, so we needed to get that time and get it out there. That was critically important.”
Last season’s Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,416 yards and 16 touchdowns, Moss has been living and training in Anaheim, Calif. Approximately 10 minutes from Anaheim is Fullerton, home of Hillcrest Park. Inside Hillcrest Park sits Lions Field, a synthetic-turf complex housing a regulation-sized football field.
On March 20, with a stay-at-home order bearing down on California, Moss ran a fully electronic 4.52 40 at Lions Field. A 4.65 wouldn’t suffice, but a 4.52 certainly will. That mark would have been good for No. 10 among running backs at the Combine.
“It was very, very important to get that done,” Moss told The Tribune. “Looking back on it, with the state shutting down, I think everyone involved did a great job of making that happen.
“I wasn’t worried about the hamstring, I wasn’t worried about anything that day. Everything worked out.”
Moss remains in Southern California, trying to, as he put it, “stay out of the way” as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect daily life, especially in Los Angeles County where there are over 11,000 confirmed cases as of Saturday morning.
Moss has been able to work out and train as needed, while Tooson tweeted on April 9 that his client cleared all medical tests at the Combine. Moss’ surgically repaired right knee was a question mark for teams, despite the injury occurring back in November 2018 and his running for over 1,400 yards in 2019.
With full health and a good 40 time on his resume, the widely held expectation is that Moss will be selected at some point on Friday when the second and third rounds are conducted, likely more toward the third round.
Pro Football Focus has Moss slotted as the second-highest running back available on its big board at No. 77, which is in the middle of the third round. Sports Illustrated’s first seven-round mock draft, released on Friday, has Moss later in the third round at No. 86 as the sixth running back taken. The Sporting News’ seven-round mock has Moss going late in the second round, 63rd overall as the fifth running back off the board.
Over the past month, since the NFL banned in-person, face-to-face meetings at team facilities thanks to COVID-19, Moss has conducted FaceTime or Zoom meetings with seven teams. That number may seem small, but Moss had already met with upward of 12 teams face-to-face at the Combine in late February.
“Teams were satisfied with what they had, they were good,” Tooson said. “In terms of who he has met with over video, it’s about what I expected given the amount of formal interviews he did at the Combine.”
“Video meetings have been good, it’s still allowing teams to get a feel for who I am, why I play, things like that,” Moss said. “I’ve built a lot of relationships and I think things have gone as well as possible from my end under the circumstances. It’s still about business at the end of the day.”