With defensive ends like Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Tuitt likely to be the first two defensive ends off the board in the first round of May’s draft, contenders may have a chance to snag a talent like Dee Ford in the latter half.
Ford enjoyed a breakout campaign for Auburn during their road to the BCS National Championship last season, recording 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss en route to earning All-SEC honors. Then Ford took to the Senior Bowl last month, where he there was no shortage of buzz around the future pro.
NFL.com’s Charles Davis said Ford was exceptional in all phases of practice, displaying natural agility and a tremendous work ethic from the first practice through the bowl game. According to CBS Sports’ Rob Rang, Ford was the most dynamic player out there in Mobile, Al. He took home MVP honors after recording a pair of sacks.
Ford has a great burst off the ball, which helps as he rushes from the passer from the edge spot. His long arms and wide frame also play a role in getting to opposing quarterbacks, his athleticism should wow NFL personnel at the combine. At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, some believe Ford’s future could be as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Though as an end at Auburn, he did just fine starting in a three-point stance.
Should he transition to backer at the next level, Ford will have to learn how to improve his coverage skills — that is if he has hopes of being an every-down player. He’ll also need improve his run defense, regardless of where he lines up.
Ford comes in as the No. 18 overall prospect, according to CBS Sports, and the No. 3 end behind Clowney and Tuitt. He’s ranked No. 20 by Rotoworld, which compares him to Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts, one of the most consistent pass-rushers over the past decade. Sports Illustrated views him in a Von Miller or Bruce Irvin sort of role.
One of the oft-mentioned landing spots for Ford is with the New Orleans Saints and the No. 27 pick. Ford could line up opposite of Cam Jordan and create one of the most formidable pass-rushing duos in not only the NFC South but the entire league. As mentioned earlier, he could line up with his hand in the dirt or as a stand-up backer and thrive in Rob Ryan’s blitz-heavy system.
Speaking of Von Miller, perhaps Ford could be his successor. Some reports have indicated the All-Pro could be looking to redo his contract in the near future, though off-the-field concerns and injuries are looming factors. Whether the Denver Broncos plan to pay Miller or not, they could nab Ford with the 31st pick as either another pass rusher or insurance policy.