The NFL Combine is a time for prospects to make a name for themselves in front of NFL scouts and front office personnel prior to the NFL Draft. Many of them tend to do it with impressive workouts on the field, posting eye-popping numbers that refuse to be ignored. But defensive end prospect Dee Ford of the Auburn Tigers made his impact in the media, calling out top-rated defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and declaring “I’m better.” Unfortunately for Ford, that evaluation does not hold water.
Ford argues that the only thing that scouts love about Clowney is his measurables (6-foot-5, 266-pounds). But Ford (6-foot-2) says size is “overrated in my eyes,” pointing to successful pass rushers like Robert Mathis and Elvis Dumervil as proof that defenders 6-foot-2 and under can dominate. Ford feels that he plays with better technique than Clowney and calls the defensive end from the South Carolina Gamecocks “a blind dog in a meat market.”
But looking at the numbers (against the same conference competition), Ford’s argument starts to break down. While the Auburn DE enjoyed a much better 2013 season than Clowney, recording 10.5 sacks to Clowney’s three, this was the first time that the fifth-year senior had recorded double-digit sacks for the Tigers. In his four previous years with Auburn, Ford managed 10.5 sacks, meaning he doubled his career total with his excellent senior season.
Clowney, on the other hand, was a force of nature from day one. As a true freshman, he recorded eight sacks, more than Ford had recorded in any year prior to 2013. He followed that up in 2012 with 13 sacks and burst onto the scene as one of the premier pass rushers in all of football. In just his first two seasons, Clowney posted as many sacks as Ford did in his entire collegiate career. When all was said and done, Clowney recorded 24 career sacks at South Carolina in just three years while Ford managed 21 sacks over five seasons with Auburn.
While Ford may have a point about being more technically sound than Clowney at this stage, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Ford is older by two years and doesn’t have the physical gifts to dominate a game with sheer athleticism. He has had to work on his technique to be a difference maker on the field and he was able to do just that with 17 sacks over his last two seasons with Auburn after recording four in his first three seasons. Clowney, meanwhile, does possess the physical gifts to run over people and is still learning the technique of rushing the passer (while still being more productive than Ford).
Dee Ford is an excellent football player and it is great that he has confidence in his game, but he is not on the same level as Jadeveon Clowney in the 2014 NFL Draft. Clowney’s physical talents alone make him a lock for the top-10 this May but his potential ceiling as one of the most physically gifted pass rushers in the NFL makes him a potential No. 1 overall pick. There’s no denying it, no matter what Ford says.