Breaking Down one of the Best Edge Rushers, Dee Ford

Stephen Dunn

If there's a pass rusher who the Chargers should take in Round 1, it's Dee Ford

After coming out of nowhere for a spectacular Senior season, and blowing up the Senior Bowl all week, Dee Ford might have snuck into the 1st round with a dominant performance. His pro day performance was just as impressive, running a 4.55 40 yard dash, and he shows that kind of speed and quickness when you watch him. So after he was nearly unblock-able at the Senior bowl, no matter who he faced, I wanted to go back and watch him, to see just how good he was.

Where He Wins

  • Speed, Speed, Speed
  • Keeping Himself Clean
  • Counter Moves
With Ford, I think it's a combination of Speed and quickness, along with his ability to time the snap. You combine the two, and you have a deadly force off the edge. As a pass rusher, there aren't many more skilled than Ford. He's explosive off the line of scrimmage, but bends the edge very well. As the below GIF shows:

Ford_medium

Another reason Ford is so dangerous as a pass rusher, is he uses his long arms to his advantage. He's can convert speed to power, but can also be and "length & strength" type pass rusher. In the below GIF, he walks back next years top 5 OT, in Cedric Ogbuehi.

Ford2_medium

It's not like it was just 1 play, either. Ford showed some serious power in his hands.

Ford3_medium

Ford does a good job of using his hands to keep himself clean. He's constantly "hand fighting" at the line of scrimmage. When opponents do engage, his hand usage really stands out. He really has an aresnal of moves. For a college pass rusher, he's very advanced. He has a "dip & rip" move that he's mastered.

Forddip_medium

Playing with leverage is so important as a pass rusher. The dip move Ford uses really helps him versus offensive tackles.

Forddip1_medium

Ford's natural instincts show as well. When he knows he's not going to get home for a sack, he does a good job of getting his hands up to bat the ball down.

Ford also shows a good motor, as he is relentlessly trying to get home and sack the quarterback. You'll see him chasing down plays to the opposite side. Ford is a good athlete that has no issues changing direction. Though a limited sample size, Ford showed he was comfortable in dropping back in coverage. He also rushed from a 2 point stance a number of times.

Where He Can Improve

  • Run Fits/Defense
  • Strength at the POA
When rushing the passer, Ford can convert speed to power with a nice hesitation move, then explode and catch the tackle off guard. As a run defender, Ford needs to get stronger. He was pushed off the line of scrimmage by tight ends this year. That doesn't bode well for the next level.

While his effort is there in setting the edge, Ford needs to do a better job of forcing runs to bounce back inside. Teams were able to get outside of him too easily. I think his overall discipline in the run game needs to improve for him to be an every down player at the next level. Teams ran at him and consistently were able to get yards. Sometimes Ford gets too far upfield, and teams were able to run a draw right to the spot where Ford was.

Grade/Final Thought

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable < 4.0
Trait Weight Grade
Vs. The Run 4 3.3
Pass Rush Ability 4 3.9
Read & React 3 2.7
First Step 2 2
Pass Rush Moves 2 1.9
Tackling 2 1.8
Coverage 2 1.6
Motor 2 1.8
Stack & Shed/Strength at POA 2 1.4
Feet/COD 2 1.7
Ford grades out to a 7.92, or an early 2nd round, top 40 talent. It's obvious what's holding him back, his ability in the run game. He needs to improve his gap discipline and strength at the point of attack. Because he predominantly rushed from the left side, defenses were able to target him, and run his way. Though you can't hide in the NFL, I believe he's best suited for the "LEO/Elephant" weakside OLB rule. This will maximize all of his skills and minimize his weaknesses. Ford will be able to pin his ears back and rush the passer. He'll also be able to drop into any flat zone coverages. Unlike at Auburn, he'll also be protected from being down blocked or double teamed.

How He Fits as a Charger

If San Diego wants Dee Ford, they'll have to take him at 25. There's a premium in the league for pass rushers, and there aren't many as skilled as him. Though I have a hard time spending a 1st round pick on a sub package player like Ford, he would instantly bolster the pass rush. Imagine him and Dwight Freeney coming off the edge, even if only for a year. He would help collapse the pocket and make life easier for Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget rushing from the inside. Ford does come with a bit of an injury history, and he was nicked up a little in 2013, so this might be a roll of the dice to hope he stays healthy. Ford couldn't participate at the combine due to a lower back issue from an operation he had back in 2011.
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