I’m sad to say Panther Nation, but it may be best to say goodbye to another fan favorite, another head of the three headed monster soon to be gone--Mike Tolbert.
Tolbert is in no way the blocker that you would look for at fullback. Is he a hard runner? Yes! But when it comes down to it, I think the issue of hard running can be fixed with our fifth round pick Cameron Artis-Payne (CAP). It’s hard to support this idea based off of stats alone, because Tolbert was a 5 TD guy his last time playing a full season. He just really isn’t what we need right now, and the other tailbacks we do have, only further diminish his value.
Who then will replace the Toldozier? Big Lee Ward is a 6’1” 250 lbs fullback out of Stanford. He was highly touted as a potential elite level pass protector as a fullback, as well as, an elite lead blocker! He went undrafted in 2014 because he only had 19 yards rushing, but don’t let his lack of rushing yards cloud his real value. Ward was considered a vital part of both pass and run plays in Stanford’s pro style offense. His combine numbers only support his value as a premiere blocking talent, where he put up 35 reps of the bench press, showing he can hang with the strongest men in the NFL. His 4.87 40 was respectable for a man of his size and strength. He’s not supposed to be a blazer, but instead a bruiser. Scouts describe him as a cannon ball who is hard to stop when in motion! The size and strength to cut off and stop smaller DEs, quick and smart enough to pick up blitzes, and help keep Cam upright in pass protection.
His biggest asset will be as a lead blocker, creating holes that we haven’t seen before, giving Stew, CAP, and Fozzy great running lanes.
You will lose Tolbert’s run ability yes, but you will gain so much with how he can block and protect. Face it, Tolbert never was a fullback, but instead just a heavy running back that passed as one. Ward plays a traditional type of football that isn’t as popular in today’s league, but he does play a type of football that wins. Look at both past Super Bowl teams; they all use a big powerful run blocking and pass protecting fullback. Sometimes getting back to basics works, not to mention cutting Tolbert saves 2.5 mill in cap opening the door for a mid to late season signing. Cutting Tolbert may not be fun for fans, but I feel it will give us the best chance to win and keep Cam healthy. Seriously, a cannon ball always beats a bowling ball.