04/09/2012 - 2012 NFL COMBINE MEDICAL RECHECK: DE Donte Moss, North Carolina (6-3, 268): Paige-Moss tore the ACL in his right knee during North Carolina's Independence Bowl loss to Missouri but the junior defensive end still elected to enter the draft after his junior season. The injury and expected recovery time could keep him sidelined for the entire 2012 season, making it unlikely that an NFL team will invest anything more than a late-round pick to acquire his services. To assure even that, doctors will want to make sure that Paige-Moss is healing on schedule. - Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com
The highly-touted high school star did not make as big of an impact as he would have liked as a freshman, playing in eight games, making just five tackles, including two sacks.
But his numbers greatly increased after the depth chart thinned out due to suspensions in 2010. He started 12 of 13 games, making 49 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and seven sacks. His 1.5 sacks, forced fumble and blocked extra point helped the team get a Music City Bowl few expected given all of the talent lost to scandal during the season.
Paige-Moss' immaturity was on display during his freshman year in an on-campus altercation with a teammate and post-game dust-up with a North Carolina State player (which resulted in his being suspended for the team's bowl game).
Heading into the 2011 season many regarded Paige-Moss was every bit the first-round candidate as his more celebrated teammate Quinton Coples.
Paige-Moss recorded 49 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a sophomore, including a dazzling all-around performance (six tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, blocked kick) in North Carolina's Music City Bowl win over Tennessee that seemed to establish him as a young star on the rise.
Unfortunately, like a lot of the UNC Tar Heels, it seemed as though Paige-Moss entered the 2011 season caught up in his own hype. The explosiveness and relentlessness that had been evident in his game earlier in his career wasn't as apparent as the 2011 season began. Though Paige-Moss saw action in all 13 games in 2011, he was passed up on the depth chart by sophomore Keenan Martin and didn't start a game.
The frustration of seeing his playing time and statistics cut (29 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks in 2011) had pushed Paige-Moss to explore leaving UNC for a shot at the NFL. Paige-Moss was active early against Missouri in the Independence Bowl, recording three tackles and again demonstrating the combination of athleticism and size that had led talent evaluators from 4-3 and 3-4 teams, alike, to value him. Unfortunately, Paige-Moss suffered a torn ACL in his right knee against the Tigers, putting at least the beginning of next season in doubt.
Rather than consider redshirting next season and recovering from the injury, Paige-Moss informed UNC officials Jan. 2 that he was leaving early for the NFL.
Though it had been known that Paige-Moss was considering making the jump, once news of his injury spread it appeared likely he'd return. The Tar Heels may have been surprised, as well, as they officially announced the junior's decision via their Twitter feed rather than offer up the press conference and/or statement traditionally associated with news of this magnitude.
Scouts can't help but acknowledge Paige-Moss' athletic gifts. However, considering his play regressed in 2011, his injury and the fact that Paige-Moss has had run-ins with authorities in the past, the junior pass rusher is going to have a hard time convincing teams to spend anything more than a late-round pick on his services this April. That's a steep fall considering he was once viewed as a viable first-round choice as a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker.
Pass rush: Flashes strength and leverage to bull rush tackles into the quarterback, able to rip inside or outside and reach the quarterback while engaged. Keeps moving towards the passer until the ball is away, getting most sacks on secondary hustle rushes. Able to spin off block to return to pocket if pushed outside. Rarely allowed to rush wide in UNC's scheme, usually contains the edge, slips inside, or used on end-tackle twists. Look flexible enough to turn the corner while engaged, though. Drops into coverage from a three-point stance on some plays, affects passing lanes with his height and length. Defeats cut blocks well with his hands, keeps his eyes on the quarterback, jumps into passing lanes to knock down throws at the line. Must learn to use violent hands to release from blockers more regularly.
Run defense: Plays with natural bend and strength at the point of attack, does not get washed out like many defensive ends because of his anchor. Coached to contain on his side of the line, capable of forcing running backs east-west and uses his long arms to wrap them if they try to cut inside. Takes down fullback cut blocks, stays in the play. Must be aware of, and anchor more consistently against, double-teams on the edge.
Explosion: Does not have an elite first step as a pass rusher, but is able to pressure tackles' upfield shoulder when given the chance to pin his ears back. Comes off the snap low and hard when playing the run, usually finishes on the opponents' side of the line when asked to play over the tackle.
Strength: Gets stronger each year, has great upside as a three-down defender. Usually plays with leverage on the edge against the run and pushes through single and double-team blocks as a pass rusher. Gets low in short-yardage situations to maintain the line of scrimmage. Loses his anchor at times, getting pushed back a bit a yard or two, when arms aren't extended into blocker.
Tackling: Does not have elite hustle and quickness to the ball, but combines length and strength to be an effective tackler around the line or chasing downfield. Plays lower than expected at his height, with good natural bend to break down quickly and wrap up in space. Closes on most quarterbacks when they start to scramble, also capable of chasing them down toward the sideline on bootlegs.
Intangibles: Had trouble keeping his temper during his first year at UNC: arrested for simple assault in July 2009 after getting into a fight with a teammate in a dorm room, then suspended for Meineke Car Care Bowl last year for an incident with a N.C. State player after their match-up. Reportedly maturing as a person and player, though still shows excitement and confidence on the field after making a big play.