Name: Dee Ford
Weight: 240 lbs
Position: 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE (probably a better fit at 3-4 OLB)
Stats: 31 tackles, 10.5 sacks (only played in 12 of 14 games)
Projected Round: 1-2
The first game I'm going to look at is Auburn vs. Florida State (this past year's national title game). In that game Dee Ford had 3 tackles and 2 sacks. The game took place on January 6, 2014.
Dee Ford appears to be really quick. It looks like as soon as he is out of his stance he is able to explode towards the line of scrimmage. Having said that, he appears to have average reaction time to the ball being snapped. But his quickness allows him to overcome this. He also uses several moves to beat offensive linemen, including his speed. He is able to over power linemen with his strength, he uses his hands well, he has a spin move, and he has a swim move. He is able to generate consistent pressure with these moves. He also appears to be a smart player, and not easily duped into biting on misdirection plays.
Having said that, he doesn't appear to maintain his gap integrity on running plays. I wouldn't call him a good run defender by any mans. He also seems to tackle high, which will lead to a lot of broken tackles in the NFL. While he seems to have good speed and quickness, I didn't notice good closing speed. I'm not sure if that means he takes poor angles or what, but he just doesn't appear to have that ideal closing speed. Finally, he looks like he gives up on running plays once they are beyond him.
The next game I'm going to look at is the 2014 senior bowl with Dee Ford.
In this game it looks like he has the very rare ability to fly off the at the snap. He was consistently the first out of his stance at the snap, sometimes he was running before the linemen even broke out of their stance. His speed and quickness were also on display. He managed to grab two sacks. He relied mostly on his edge rush in this game. He also does a good job of recognizing when he's not getting to the quarterback and getting his hands up. He does a good job of reading option plays as well. he appears to be a smart player. On running plays, he appears to play more conservative as well.
The more I see of him, the less concerns I have. However, he appears to have two major issues: 1) He doesn't take great angles when he's pursuing ball carriers. This allows ball carriers to gain a few extra yards. Those extra yards are important. 2) He tackles way to high. It's going to be a huge problem in the NFL. Especially against huge QB's and running backs. In this game a running back runs right through his attempt at a tackle because he is trying to bring him down at his shoulder pads. He needs to get lower.
The final game I'm going to look at is Auburn vs. Clemson from 2012.
His ability to speed rush is on display again. I've also failed to mention, but noticed in each game, he does display good balance. I'll repeat it again as well, he has a plethora of moves to work with in the pass rushing game, which makes him all that more effective. But is strength is his speed. When he is lined up as a wide-9 DE or the LEO he flies around the edge. He also looks great when he's standing up and rushing the passer off the edge. However, he's not as effective when he's lined up as a pure 4-3 DE. With that said, he still manages to get good pressure.
Another thing I noticed is that he really needs to improve his pad level. It may help with his tackling, but he seems to come up to the offensive linemen with a slightly high pad level. He also gets manhandled in the running game. The offensive linemen just move him out of the way. In this game, he also seemed to be overly aggressive. To his credit, this was over a year ago, and he did seem to vastly improve in that area. But, he was consistently getting beat in the running game and on misdirection plays.
Overall, I think he can be a very effective pass rusher in the NFL if he is a 3-4 LB. I don't think he's ready to be an every down player at this point, because he really needs to improve his strength when he takes on blockers in the running game. Having said that, he does display the elite ability to pressure the QB. He is quick off the snap, very athletic, and pretty sound on his fundamentals. He needs to improve his tackling and his pad level as well, and the angles he takes when chasing down ball carriers. I don't think the Bears will draft him because he appears to be a 3-4 guy solely. Having said that, I could see him getting around 10-12 sacks consistently in the NFL.