2014 NFL Draft: Dee Ford Scouting Report
By Luke Inman on February 11, 2014
Quickness: Ford is a tremendous athlete with a superb first step, making him an explosive threat off the edge. A bit undersized, Ford uses this to his advantage against bigger tackles after he has gained leverage with his quickness, he shows great bend around the corner to close on the quarterback. Make no mistake Ford's quickness and speed along with his flexibility are what has turned him into a play making defender.
Motor: Ford has excellent athleticism, and a key component to that is his top-notch conditioning. It's certainly something that is under appreciated in a new era of players that are in the best physical condition we've ever seen before.
However, Ford has shown a relentless motor that seems to get stronger as the game goes on. Ford often is at his most productive during critical points later in ball games, looking quick as ever while his opponents are running on fumes.
In a game where a half second can be the difference, Ford's high motor is something that can be an x-factor, while playing a position that is in high demand to attack the ball quickly.
Hand Use: Although he is an effective and productive pass rusher, Ford relies on his speed and quickness far too often. After further assessment it's clear Ford has trouble using his hands to his advantage and struggles when he gets locked up with an offensive lineman. With his inability to use his hands, Ford gets locked up and pushed up field easily if he doesn't win with his initial first step. Aside from his speed and dip combination, Ford's lack of pass rushing moves will allow teams to game plan against him and limit his effectiveness.
Run Support: Ford will have his lack of size hovering over his head during the draft process as teams try to determine if he is anything more than a situational pass-rusher. At just 240 pounds, Ford lacks the upper body strength expected from a three down player and is pushed out of running plays by bigger offensive lineman. Stemming off his poor hand usage Ford also has a very difficult time shedding blocks and gets washed out of the running game far too easily.
On paper Ford is eerily similar to Indianapolis Colts' defensive end Robert Mathis, who is 6'2" 246 pounds.
Although Mathis has honed his technique in run support over the years he will always known as a "pass rush specialist".
Drafted in the fifth round by the Colts he has turned in 11 quality years and has produced multiple pro-bowl seasons.
Both Ford and Mathis possess the quick twitch off the snap and show great bend around the corner allowing them to strike fear in lineman and quarterbacks.
No one helped themselves more during Senior Bowl week than Dee Ford, who was unstopable coming off the edge in one-on-one drills during practices. He carried that momentum into the game itself where he notched two sacks and was named Senior Bowl MVP. No doubt Ford's impressive display of athleticism from Monday to Saturday sent his stock soaring into the "fringe first-round" category.
With a good showing at the combine Ford could solidify a first round grade due to the high demand of quality pass-rushers at the next level. However, due to the looming questions about his ability to contribute in the running game there is a very likely chance Ford will slip past the first round. If thats the case don't expect him to last long after that, with teams in need of a pass rusher patiently waiting in the early portion of the second round. Bottom line, even with his inconsistencies in the run game Ford is a top-50 pick.
There is still debate what position best fits Ford's attributes and will maximize his talent as he has experience at both a traditional defensive end, as well as standing up as an outside linebacker. Much like Robert Mathis, if Ford is able to become just adequate enough in run support, he could turn into a three-down player while rushing the passer off the edge with his hand in the ground. Saying that, with his size the consensus seems to be Ford will fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
If any team pulls the trigger on Ford in the first round the Saints and Broncos make sense as they are in need of a quality pass rusher off the edge. After the Jacksonville coaching staff watched him dominate up close and personal in Mobile, Alabama all week, the Jaguars make a lot of sense in the second round fitting in perfectly with Gus Bradley's "LEO" defense.
The Texans are still searching for someone to apply pressure opposite of J.J. Watt and would welcome Ford with open arms. Meanwhile the Chargers are in a similar situation as they try to find an outside linebacker to pair with Melvin Ingram. The Bucaneers and Falcons will be tempted early in the second round, while the Cowboys, Cardinals, and Eagles will be waiting later in the round hoping he falls in their laps.