The Senior Bowl is the perfect place for somewhat unheralded prospects to burst onto the scene as national names in terms of draftability in the NFL’s yearly selection festivities. Plenty of names were impressive during the week of practice, but the one who also managed to back it up in the game itself was Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford.
He ran circles around opposing linemen all week in practice, and Ford was able to pile up two sacks and a pass breakup all in first half of the game itself. After being named game MVP, Ford gave a classic quote, saying: “I made a little money.”
Of course that’s the goal of all these young men as they set out for their vocational futures at the next level of football, but there may be a cautionary tale for those fans of the San Diego Chargers who believe Ford may be the savior their pass rush has been yearning for. The particular advisory that’s difficult to overlook goes by the name of Larry English, and he was once upon a time a standout at the Senior Bowl only to vault his way into the middle of the first-round.
The Bolts landed the former Northern Illinois sack artist hoping that his 31.5 sacks in the MAC would translate to their pass rush. Unfortunately English is the perfect example of how hype and an impressive showing in a collegiate All-Star environment doesn’t always transition seamlessly to the next level. 11 sacks total and five years later the Bolts will likely be saying sayonara to the former first-rounder this offseason as his rookie deal expires.
A year after bidding adieu to former sack leader Shaun Phillips, the Chargers will need to find someone to pair with the promising Melvin Ingram heading into the future. Dwight Freeney is still under contract for 2014, but at 34 years of age and coming off of a serious injury it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that the team severs ties with his sizable salary. The same goes for veteran Jarret Johnson who doesn’t really add much to the pass rush anyway with just 4.5 sacks during his two seasons in lightning bolts.
Ford seems like a nice fit as an edge rusher given the inevitable roster turnover the team is about to experience. He notched a pair of sacks against Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles in the BCS National Championship Game only to thrive against the best seniors in the land during practice and the actual Senior Bowl game itself. Draftniks are certainly enamored with Ford currently, and it seems like his lofty draft stock could have staying power given what CBS draft analyst Rob Rang had to say about him.
Easy to see Dee Ford’s explosiveness. Also was impressed with his physique at weigh-in, charisma at media day. Some guys just stand out.
— Rob Rang (@RobRang) January 25, 2014
At 6-foot-2, 243-pounds it’s easy to see the promise in this young pass rusher. Prioritizing outside linebacker ahead of cornerback and offensive line may seem like a mistake for San Diego, but the fact is that a better pass rush will aid a struggling secondary all year long. If the Bolts can boost their woeful sack total of just 35.0 during the 2013 season back near their 2010 total of 47.0 by adding Ford to the outside linebacker rotation, he seems like a very sound investment during the 2014 NFL Draft.