Player: Johnathan "Rudy" Ford
NFL Draft: Sixth round selection
Weight: 205 pounds
Arm length: 30 inches
Hand size: 8 7/8 inches
College stats: 2013: Five tackles, one pass defended, 2014: 93 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions, one pass defended, 2015: 118 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two passes defended, 2016: 64 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, seven passes defended
Strengths: The Cardinals traded both of the team's seventh round draft picks to move into the sixth round to select Ford, a college safety the team hopes can transition to cornerback in the NFL. Based on Ford's tape, there's reason to believe Ford might be able to do so successfully, because he's an extremely fluid athlete with good hips and natural instincts. Though Ford doesn't have much tape for the Cardinals to analyze at cornerback, he did drop down and play in the slot at Auburn as a nickel corner, which is a strong indication of the type of athlete he is and how highly the Tigers' coaching staff thought of his ability to play man-to-man coverage. Ford is another sub 4.5 40-yard dash draftee, as the Cardinals seem to load up on these guys every year, but he's not just known for his straight-line speed. At Auburn, Ford had no trouble moving forward when he broke on passes or saw a run play developing in front of him. We think Ford may be best suited to play safety at the next level, but if the Cardinals think he'll be better off helping the team as a cornerback, he does have traits that make the decision understandable. Last but not least, Ford should be able to make the team because he'll be a special teams asset. Ford had kick return experience at Auburn, and he looks like a natural fit for Arizona's coverage units, which could use all the help they can get.
Weaknesses: When Ford is running at top speed and chasing down a play, he does so with great explosiveness and force and it's easy to see why he has the athletic traits necessary to match up with receivers in the NFL. The issue for Ford is that too often, he's late to open his hips in pass coverage and he often has trouble tracking receivers. Ford has natural instincts when he's moving forward and attempting to make a play, but when receivers are running at him, he's not nearly as sharp and doesn't showcase the same type of confidence in his instincts. Even though Ford likely won't be asked to do much more than play man-to-man coverage, there's questions about his ability to defend double moves or play in zone coverage because he's sometimes slow to process plays, which is a trait that will be exposed by NFL receivers. While Ford isn't necessarily destined to a life as a sub-package player, it's hard to imagine him playing as more than just an additional corner in nickel or dime packages early in his career until he shows a better command in pass coverage.
Ford's fit: Under general manager Steve Keim, the Cardinals haven't been able to translate their success in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft to the final two rounds. Keim has very rarely found impact players in the sixth or seventh rounds, and he's hoping that trend breaks with the addition of Ford. At the very least, the Cardinals have found themselves a player who should provide immediate value on special teams, either as a kick returner or a cover man. Ford is fast enough and explosive enough to earn consideration as a kick returner as a rookie, and he's immediately going to be in competition for a role on the kickoff team and as a gunner on the punt team. What should help Ford's cause are his tackling skills, which are above average for a player with his size and speed. The goal, though, for Arizona, is to help Ford develop into a complete player who boasts the skills to help the team on defense, whether it be in subpackages or in the team's base defense. It may take multiple seasons of practice and development for Ford to become comfortable in his backpedal and to understand the nuances of the cornerback position, but as long as he's contributing on special teams, his sixth round selection won't be considered a lost cause.