NFC South: Lorenzo Neal

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

A lot of readers have been hitting the mailbag with questions about why Mike Alstott wasn't the fullback for our all-decade offense. Here are a couple of samples:

  Alstott

Chance in Evanston, Wyo., writes: I believe Mike Alstot should have been in at FB on the all decade team. What would your arguments over that be? I thought he was pretty amazing player at a position that gets very little recognition.

Ryan in Charleston, W.Va., writes: I've been watching old video's of Mike Alstott and with this all decade teams coming up, Where do you think He Fits in? I mean has there ever really been a Fullback like this guy who could open up holes for RB's then move to Running back and change the game like him.

Here are my thoughts: Lorenzo Neal got the nod on this team, probably because he's the best blocking fullback ever. In fact, when the Bucs had Neal back in the 1990s, they used him as the blocking back for Alstott and Warrick Dunn.

Don't get me wrong, I think Alstott was a wonderful player. He could do a lot of things other fullbacks couldn't do -- mainly carry the ball and catch it out of the backfield. Alstott's one of the all-time favorites among Tampa Bay fans and some of his 1- or 2-yard runs were the stuff of highlight films because of his blue-collar approach. But the fact in the NFL these days are that fullbacks are around mainly to block.

The reality about Alstott is he did a lot of things better than any fullback, but blocking wasn't one of them. He was only ordinary in that area and I might even be too generous on that.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Our all-decade offense has been revealed and there's not one true NFC South player on it.

Sure, tight end Tony Gonzalez is now with Atlanta, but he's spent the entire decade up to now with Kansas City. You could also make a claim to fullback Lorenzo Neal, who spent a couple of years with Tampa Bay, but that was back in the 1990s.

I'm looking around for oversights, but not truly seeing any. You could start to make an argument for Drew Brees, but that ends once you realize that Tom Brady, who made the team, and Peyton Manning, who did not, are ahead of him.

What about Carolina's Jordan Gross? He might be the best offensive tackle in the league right now, but you can't really argue that he was better than Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden over the course of the decade.

Or Carolina's Steve Smith? Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt, who made the list, each won Super Bowls and that speaks for itself. Randy Moss and Terrell Owens didn't make the list and you can make an argument for either one. But I'd put Smith right there with Moss and over Owens.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The folks at SportsNation and ESPN Stats & Information put together a tremendous project in which they rank the best drafts in NFL history by each team.

They've taken each of those classes and put them into a 32-team tournament where readers can vote for winners. We'll leave that up to you.

The current rankings were compiled with a very complex formula and were used to seed the teams in the tournament.

I don't think there's any question about the best draft class in NFC South history. It's Tampa Bay's class of 1995 that featured Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. The rest of the class is pretty forgettable, but Sam Wyche and Rich McKay, who were running the show at that time, drafted two future Hall of Famers and laid the foundation for a tremendous turnaround by what had been one of the worst franchises in pro sports.

Tampa Bay's 1995 class has the No. 7 seed in the tournament, easily the best among NFC South clubs. New Orleans' 1993 class is the 20th seed and Atlanta's 1991 class is 21st.

Although Carolina's 2001 draft class is seeded No. 30, I'm going to disagree a bit with the seeding. I'm going to say that Carolina class was the second best draft in NFC South history because it's still playing out.

George Seifert pretty much ruined his coaching legacy in Carolina, but he did give the Panthers a parting gift in his final draft. He got Dan Morgan, Kris Jenkins and Steve Smith in the first three rounds. Smith is a potential Hall of Famer, Jenkins has been an All-Pro three times and Morgan was dynamic when healthy. In fact, if Morgan hadn't been so cursed by injuries, this might have trumped Tampa Bay's 1995 class.

It's all hypothetical, but let's say Morgan had stayed healthy his entire career and Jenkins had done a better job of controlling his weight and not missed large parts of two seasons with injuries. Seifert might have ended up drafting three potential Hall of Famers.

New Orleans' 1993 class was pretty darn good, mainly because of offensive tackle Willie Roaf, who could be on his way to the Hall of Fame. And give the Saints credit for drafting Lorenzo Neal, one of the best blocking fullbacks ever, in the fourth round, even though he spent most of his career elsewhere.

You almost have to laugh and cry when you look at Atlanta's best draft class ever. It's ranked as the best mainly because the Falcons drafted Brett Favre. They kept him for a year and then traded him to the Packers where he went on to greatness. That's always kind of haunted the Falcons. But there's good news in the future. Atlanta's 2008 draft class (Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Sam Baker, Harry Douglas and Chevis Jackson, to name a few) might not take long to be established as the best in franchise history.

Bucs work out FB Neal

August, 6, 2008
8/06/08
11:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A quick note as I transcribe the tape of Jon Gruden talking about Brett Favre, which I'll post shortly. Gruden also said the Bucs worked out veteran fullback Lorenzo Neal Wednesday morning. Gruden wasn't clear on if the Bucs plan to make an offer to Neal. Starting fullback B.J. Askew has been bothered by an ankle injury, but Gruden said that's not serious and the team would be looking for depth if Neal signs.

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