Summary: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the star of the 2014 Senior Bowl, but just behind him was Ford. After helping to lead Auburn to the National Championship, Ford had an excellent week of practice in Mobile where he showed off his tremendous edge-rush ability. Ford was a beast in the one-on-ones, and he definitely continued the upward trend for his draft stock.
Ford had a slow start to his college career with 11 tackles and two sacks as a freshman. He missed the majority of his sophomore season with a back injury before a quality showing as a junior in 2012. Ford had six sacks with 34 tackles and a forced fumble in 2012.
As a senior, Ford took his game to another level and was one of the best edge rushers in college football. He missed the first two games, but finished the year with a total of 29 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Ford played well late in the season against Missouri and Florida State (2 sacks). He was dominated Florida State's right tackle all evening.
Ford projects to the NFL as a pure speed rusher off the edge. He has a great get-off and the speed to close in an instant. Ford has the pass-rushing moves and agility to run around blockers. Ford isn't a great run-defender, and at the next level, he could struggle to defend runs coming straight at him. Ford does better in pursuit, but his run defense is too weak to remain a 4-3 end in the NFL. As a run-defender, he would be much better off playing outside linebacker rather than lining up with his hand in the ground.
While Ford is very explosive off the edge, he isn't big enough to remain at defensive end as a pro. Ford will have to move to outside linebacker. In a 4-3 defense, he would have to play as a linebacker who rushes off the edge in passing situations, similar to Von Miller in Denver. Ford projects best as an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. Some believe that Ford could go in the top 20, but at his size he looks like a better fit in round two.
Player Comparison: Robert Mathis. Ford and Mathis (6-2, 246) are the same size, and they both are pure speed rushers off the edge. Mathis' peak production has come as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and that is the best scheme fit for Ford. Both Mathis and Ford are undersized defenders who can have issues in run defense. However, each makes up for it by being a terror off the edge. Ford could end up being a similar player to Mathis.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, San Diego, Cincinnati
There are a number of teams that could consider Ford in the second round. Leading it off would be the Texans. They need an edge rusher to go on the other side from J.J. Watt, and if they take a quarterback in the first round, Ford could make a lot of sense in Round 2.
Many were surprised last year when the Jaguars passed on Dion Jordan. Jacksonville has a pathetic pass rush and Ford would provide a quick upgrade. The Jaguars also must improve their outside linebackers. Ford looks like a perfect fit in Jacksonville.
The Saints, Colts, Eagles and Chargers are all 3-4 defenses that could use another pass-rushing outside linebacker. It wouldn't be surprising to see one of those teams trade up for Ford.
The Bengals could be an interesting fit for Ford. Cincinnati could lose Michael Johnson in free agency, while James Harrison is just a short-term starter at outside linebacker. Ford could be a good weapon with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.