Defensive Rush End/Outside Linebacker
Auburn University Tigers
St. Clair County High School
According to the All-American, size does not matter when you have ability on the football field. Ford is living proof that one should not be fooled by what numbers say with a tape measure in one's hand – it is 10.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 17 quarterback pressures in 2013 that speak volumes for this Tigers' ability to be a disruptive for in the opponent's backfield.
A player hailed for his above-average football intelligence, Ford is called a "coach on the field" by teammates and staff alike. NFL teams also are impressed with his work ethic and strong desire to improve every aspect of his game. Since arriving on campus as a freshman, he has battled through an assortment of injuries to dedicate himself in the training room, adding over 40 pounds to his frame since his freshman season began.
Ford has battled back from a season-ending herniated disk injury in the Tigers' third game of the 2011 schedule vs. Clemson and was granted medical redshirt. In 2012, he suffered an abdominal injury vs. Arkansas that prevented him from suiting up for one game while seeing limited action in two others.
In 2013, Ford missed the first two games of season with knee (left) injury. At the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, he did not get medical clearance to perform in the agility tests due to a lumber spine injury, but proved doctors wrong with a scintillating performance during Auburn's Pro Day less than two weeks later. At the event, under the watchful eyes of every defensive coordinator in the league, he put up the weights (225-pound bench press) 29 times, was clocked at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, had a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump and a 10'-4" broad jump.
Ford emerged from that performance as the big winner and further ignited his "friendly feud" with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is viewed as one of the best players in the draft class. "I'm better than Clowney," Ford said. "Let's put it like this. People like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes.
"You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that [Clowney] is a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market basically."
Ford might not have completely proved that statement, but his pro day results compare favorably to Clowney's numbers from the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
Clowney has much better size, but Ford showed he is just as athletic as the former South Carolina star, and at least in this comparison, he's stronger, too. No one's predicting the ex-Tiger to jump ahead of Clowney, but he may have earned a first-round selection.
Ford attended St. Clair County High School in Odenville, Alabama before suiting up at Auburn University, as he closed out his prep career by recording 90 tackles, including 38 behind the line of scrimmage with 18 sacks. He also intercepted a pass and broke up three other while being named to the Class 4A All-State team by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
As a junior, Ford posted 87 total tackles with 16 stops-for-loss and 12 sacks. He was ranked as the nation's 26th-best defensive end by Scout.com and listed 35th nationally at that position by ESPN.com. Super Prep regarded the senior as the seventh-best overall prospect in the state of Alabama.
The Saint Clair County freshman enrolled at Auburn in 2009 and even though he measured in at 214 pounds, he was a key reserve for the defensive end rotation, appearing in all 13 games. He finished his first campaign with 12 tackles, making 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. During the 2010 off-season, Ford occupied himself in the Tigers weight room, emerging as a 240-pound left defensive end in the fall. He was in a three-man rotation at that spot, recording just 11 tackles, but two produced sacks and he also had his only interception as a collegian.
Ford began the 2011 campaign playing behind Corey Lemonier at left end, but the season would end when he injured his back vs. Clemson, finishing with seven tackles and a sack. Granted a medical hardship, he returned to the gridiron in 2012, earning eight starting assignments in the 11 games he played in at strong-side defensive end. He posted a career-high 34 tackles and led the Tigers with six sacks, adding eight quarterback pressures, as three of those pressures caused interceptions.
Ford made a few changes prior to his senior campaign, losing 10 pounds in order to increase his burst off the line and switching to jersey #30 from his previous #95. Used more as a standup rush end he also saw action dropping back into pass coverage when he returned to the lineup after sitting out the first two games. Despite that absence, he led the team and Southeastern Conference with 10.5 sacks, ranking tenth in the nation in that category. He managed 29 tackles with 14.5 stops-for-loss and 17 QB pressures.
With an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl, Ford used the week-long practices in Mobile to erase any doubts that teams might have had in regards to his size. When he walked into the hotel, he told a reporter from the NFL Network, "I'm not nervous at all. I'm prepared, I already know I'm trying to go there and shock the world. That's something I've been preparing for, for a long time. I feel like if you're not prepared then you're nervous, but I'm prepared."
Ford blew past offensive tackles with relative ease during Senior Bowl preparations and again in the game itself. He picked up Defensive MVP honors in Mobile and jumped on most teams' radar. As a result, he took some pressure off himself heading into the NFL Combine, where he was quizzed by scouts as much as he will be tested in the 40-yard dash and in the weight room.
"It's a great opportunity to really show how athletic you are," Ford said. "I'm going to take advantage of every drill, so I'm working on every drill and I'm there to compete. I want to win every drill. I want to have the best time. I'm not looking over this thing. I know I can play football, but I want to show my athleticism, too."
Ford's 2013 game films showed off his explosiveness off the edge as a pass rusher, especially his first step and improved counter moves, as points of interest that stick out to the scouts. He also impressed in Mobile with a chiseled build at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds during the weigh-in and was virtually unstoppable off the edge during the practices, showing burst, bend and closing speed.
Ford started 20-of-52 games that he played in at Auburn, recording 93 tackles (59 solos) that included 20.5 sacks for minus -163 yards, 27.5 stops for losses of 263 yards and 30 quarterback pressures…Also caused three fumbles, deflected two passes and intercepted another, along with blocking one kick.