Moe Neal was nothing but consistent at Syracuse. He never missed a game and always put his head down between the tackles. Even with the long lineage of great running backs preceding him, Neal climbed to 9th on SU’s all time rushing list (2,560). He also ranks 9th in yards per carry (5.28). Despite his four years of success at SU, Neal didn’t hear his name called during the NFL Draft, and hasn’t been signed as an undrafted free agent. Many Syracuse fans are probably wondering why an NFL team hasn’t touched Neal yet, and if they ever will.
While Neal consistently had success on the ground for the Orange, he also consistently failed as a receiving threat out of the backfield. In 49 games, and two seasons as a starter, Neal only caught 56 passes for 546 yards and just one touchdown.
It’s unlikely that Neal is unable to catch checkdowns. Instead, these numbers just point to personnel. Neal spent most of his career alongside Eric Dungey. The dual-threat quarterback relied on his athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs, which didn’t leave much room for Neal to grow as a receiver. When Neal’s number was called, it was usually to relieve Dungey on a handoff.
Neal’s best receiving year predictably came alongside Tommy Devito in 2019 when he reeled in a new career high 242 receiving yards on 29 receptions, more than double his previous high mark. But those numbers are still underwhelming for NFL scouts. Now, more than ever, NFL running backs have to be swiss-army knives. The Carolina Panthers just made Christian McCaffrey the highest paid running back in league history because he ran for nearly 1,400 yards and caught for over 1,000 last season. Neal might not have the versatility required of the modern NFL running back.
Moe Neal was listed at 5’11”, 195 lbs in his senior season at SU. The average height and weight for an NFL running back is 5’11”, 216 lbs, according to pro-football-reference. It is very rare for an NFL team to take a flyer on an undersized running back. That is why Neal’s former co-starter Dontae Strickland landed an NFL contract out of school, and Neal is still looking. Even though Strickland finished with 843 fewer yards than Neal on the ground, he had 10 pounds on Neal coming out of school. NFL teams can develop agility, speed and the ability to receive out of the backfield. However, size is often a determining factor when teams are deciding between various undrafted free agents.
Neal also did not have to block that much at SU. Dontae Strickland was the primary blocking back when the two shared the starting role. Chris Elmore took many of the blocking reps from Neal in 2019. Neal’s game tape is not enough to prove that he can block in a professional backfield.
Everyone has been affected by the coronavirus, but it might have costes Moe Neal an NFL job. There are questions about his measurables, and he never had a pro day to answer them. He could have silenced the blocking critics with a strong bench press performance. He also could have shown his speed. Neal never ran an official 40-yard dash. He never had the opportunity to expand on his impressive career at Syracuse. Statistics are not enough to prove NFL readiness.
Neal will likely have to wait if he wants to pursue the NFL. He can participate in next year’s pro day at Syracuse to show off his talent in front of NFL scouts. Neal also has the option of pursuing the XFL like former SU teammates Eric Dungey, Erv Phillips, Shamarko Thomas and Jordan Martin. He can also sit and wait at home, hoping the phone will ring. The clock is ticking on Neal’s NFL career.