MOBILE, Ala. -- After a great senior season, the expectations scouts and media had for what Auburn defensive end Dee Ford would do at the Senior Bowl were pretty high.
It’s pretty safe to say that, high as they were, Ford exceeded all expectations in practice.
From the first practice Monday, to the final walk-through on Thursday, Ford did everything right. He was energetic and enthusiastic, always going full speed. He seemed very attentive to any coaching he got, adjusting quickly to suggestions and notes given to him by the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff, which was in charge of the South team.
Over the course of the week, Ford showed some impressive moves to get past blockers, sometimes flashing an effective speed rush, while other times ripping through the arms of a tackle when going inside.
Ford has worked hard to add weight and strength since arriving in Auburn in 2009, when he weighed a featherweight 190 pounds. He’s known to put in many extra hours in the weight room on off days and is as dedicated off the field as he is on it.
The question facing teams, though, is where to put him.
Ford was a defensive end at Auburn, and many believe his best fit would be in a 4-3 scheme which lines him out wide to rush the passer. However, some scouts and analysts believe he could transition to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Ford rushed out of a two-point stance a lot at Auburn and while he doesn’t have a ton of experience dropping into coverage, he’s been working on it this offseason while preparing for the upcoming draft.
Jacksonville used him as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker (referred to as the “Leo” in its defense), using him to attack from the weak side. While the position was new to him, he seemed to take to it easily.
He did it against some impressive players like Virginia tackle Morgan Moses and Vanderbilt’s Wesley Johnson.
Ford then did it again during the Senior Bowl game itself, notching two sacks on North quarterback Logan Thomas. Both times Ford sacked the Virginia Tech quarterback the play resulted in big losses for the offense. He also did a good job in collapsing the pocket in general and helping to keep the quarterback from getting too comfortable.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah reported on Friday that while most teams had Ford rated as a second rounder, he could easily slip into the first round. As Jeremiah points out, Ford was “the most explosive edge rusher throughout the week.”
In a league where quarterbacks are king and offenses pass for tons of yards, it is critical to be able to disrupt pass plays. If you can’t do that, you won’t win football games.
That fact, along with the phenomenal week of practices, will likely prove Jeremiah right when Ford goes somewhere in the late first round.