NFL DRAFT | SINOROCE MOSS

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Former UM receiver Sinorice Moss has undeniable skills, but his 5-8 height keeps him from being a certain first-round draft pick.

BY ARMANDO SALGUERO
asalguero@MiamiHerald.com


He had knee and ankle injuries at the University of Miami, but no one is suggesting he's injury prone. Tight quadriceps put the brakes on his 40-yard dash time during the NFL scouting combine, but no one is suggesting he's slow.

He had a finger injury during the Senior Bowl and, though it was tough catching the ball at times, no one is questioning his hands.

The only doubt NFL teams have about Sinorice Moss is his height.

'If you have a guy who was clean in all [the criteria teams measure] and it was all the same and one guy met all the size criteria and another guy didn't, even though that guy could have the same amount of success, would you choose the guy that meets all the criteria or the guy who was deficient in one area?' Dolphins coach Nick Saban asked rhetorically. ``That area doesn't have to be short.

``It could be character, it could be mental in terms of ability to learn and adapt, which could affect the guy's development and how quickly he would be able to play. It could be speed, it could be athleticism, it could be a lot of things.'

Translation: Everything else being equal, Saban and most NFL personnel people prefer a player who meets the prototypical criteria for a position over one who doesn't.

That is why Moss, who is all of 5-8 but whose production towered over his peers at UM, is not an absolute certainty to go in the draft's first round Saturday.

Sure, some mock drafts have the Pittsburgh Steelers picking Moss with the 32nd overall pick. But that would mean teams passed on a receiver who scouts say runs sharp routes with 4.3-second speed in the 40.

And they did it 31 times.

'I would feel bad for them because they're going to face me whenever they have to face me, and I'm not going to forget them passing on me,' Moss said recently. ``Anyone who passes me in the draft, I'm going to make them pay for doing that by making plays against them for years to come.'

You would think NFL personnel people would have learned by now that height is extremely important in basketball but not as much on a football field. You would think they could remember that short receivers such as Santana Moss and Steve Smith had giant seasons in 2005.

And you would think those scouts would know something about genetics and how talent can just as easily be passed to Sinorice as to his brother, Santana.

'I feel like my brother and Steve Smith did a tremendous job last year,' Sinorice Moss said. ``For teams, it shouldn't matter what size you are. All that should matter is being able to go and play football. When they see me go and play football, they should say he's a good football player.

PLAY AT HIGH LEVEL

'They should say, `Yeah he's 5-8, but he can play at a high level no matter what his size.' '

Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Moss, said Baltimore, Philadelphia and even the Dolphins have shown a keen interest in the receiver. He predicts Moss will indeed be drafted in the first round.

But Rosenhaus knows his client faces a perception problem.

'He's trying to beat the naysayers who say he won't be able to succeed because he's 5-8 or 5-9 or whatever,' Rosenhaus said. ``That's the same kind of backlash Santana faced when he was coming out and teams took David Terrell and Koren Robinson and Rod Gardner ahead of him.

``All those guys have since been cut from the teams that took them, and Santana just went to the Pro Bowl.'

The Moss brothers are bonded by blood and a common love for the sport, and older brother Santana lately has tutored Sinorice -- not so much about the game, but about the business of football.

'He's talked to me about making the transition to the NFL,' Sinorice said. ``Making the transition from high school to college was real big. But having the opportunity to be in the NFL, I'm going to have to be more serious. It's a job now, you have to be professional.

``We've talked about it, and I know I'm going to have to work hard to pay my bills for me and my family.'

Santana Moss caught 84 passes for 1,483 yards last season. Smith caught 103 passes for 1,563 yards. Neither is taller than 5-9, although the Moss is generously listed at 5-10.

But their success still has not changed the prototype of an NFL receiver: 6-3 and 215 pounds with the ability to run a 4.4 in the 40.

Some personnel gurus, however, are adjusting their sights off the prototype to acknowledge talent can come in a smaller package.

'Overall, Moss is no doubt smaller than ideal,' former NFL scout Russ Lande writes in his GM Jr. draft guide, ``but the rest of his skills will enable him to make an impact in the NFL. He is going to be a good receiver who catches a lot of passes and makes big plays running after the catch.'

Moss remembers times when neither coaches nor trainers at UM thought he should be running before or after any catches. Injuries that lingered from his high school days haunted him earlier in his career.

But Moss proved then that small and tough can be related -- something NFL teams might want to consider.

'What I went through in my early parts of my UM career, it was tough,' he said. ``It was tough because of the injuries, nicks and bruises, and whenever I started to heal, I was rushed back and then got re-injured. All the things I went through high school with caught up with me.

``But I needed to get out there because I can't go sit and watch somebody play my position when I know I can be out there and do it as well as they can if not better even though I'm hurt.'

HAPPY PARENTS

There should be no pain in the Moss household come Saturday. The family will gather in its Miramar residence, waiting for Sinorice to be selected.

'I've been thinking about it all the time, practically every hour of the day,' Moss said. ``There's not a minute that goes by that I'm not wondering where I'm going to end up or about how happy my parents will be or how happy I'll be.

``That kind of thing, I guess, is the same for everybody.'

That's the kind of thing where size doesn't matter.

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