Prior to last weekend’s Senior Bowl, Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford was almost unanimously considered to be looking at a second day selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. After dominating for the entire week of practice and picking up the game’s MVP award, however, it’s possible that Ford may be able to sneak into the latter part of the first round.
Ford was listed as a defensive end at Auburn, but he actually played more like a 3-4 outside linebacker, rushing primarily off the edge out of a two-point stance. This position is probably where he projects best in the NFL as his 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame makes him undersized for a 4-3 defensive end.
That’s not to say, however, that Ford couldn’t be effective as a defensive end if called upon. He has an exceptional amount of power for a player of his size and does a great job of using his leverage. He is quick to all areas of the field and gets off the line of scrimmage very well.
On the flip side, there are some noticeable weaknesses in Ford’s game that would make him a potential liability in a 4-3. First of all, he’s virtually a non-factor in the run game. In addition, Ford’s speed rushing skills probably would not be as effective if he frequently had to line up head-up with a tackle. He very rarely uses a spin move and does not utilize a rip or swim, so he needs to come off the edge to take full advantage of his skills.
While he still has room to improve, Ford is one of the most intriguing pass rushers in this draft class. His draft stock probably is dependent on draft day trades as there isn’t a whole lot of obvious need for 3-4 outside linebackers in the mid-to-late first round. However, with Houston’s 3-4 defense in need of pass rushing help and Atlanta, Minnesota, Tennessee and Detroit aiming to add more hybrid looks to their schemes, it would be surprising if Ford made it out of the early part of round two.
- Seems very comfortable out of a two-point stance, a natural fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker
- Uses leverage well, has much more power than a typical player of his size
- Fierce hands
- Quick, explosive bursts of speed off the line of scrimmage
- Relentless, plays to the whistle
- Good change of direction skills
- Plays with a low pad level
- Has experience out of both two- and three-point stances
- Can be used effectively on both the left and right sides
- Over-pursues, doesn’t take angles carefully
- Needs to make significant improvements as a run defender
- Hasn’t really developed any pass rush moves, either uses a bull rush or tries to beat the tackle with his speed off the edge
- Undersized as a 4-3 defensive end
- Was limited during the beginning of 2013 by a left knee injury
Despite missing the Tigers’ first two games and not registering a sack until Auburn’s fifth contest, Ford still had a very productive season. He was at a torrid pace for a five-game mid-season stretch, picking up seven sacks in five games. While his performance in the game against Ole Miss which started this streak was phenomenal, Ford’s biggest resume-booster was his game at Texas A&M. He was able to constantly put pressure on A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel while picking up two sacks against right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi who was widely projected as a first-round pick had he declared for the draft this year.
While Ford’s performance leveled off near the end of the regular season, he was fantastic in the BCS Championship Game and really boosted his stock as the Senior Bowl MVP.
2014 Draft Projection: Second Round