Michael Ford- 2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Positives:

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

+Good speed
+Good power
+Has the burst necessary to be a good outside runner yet the power to be great inside, which gives him superstar potential
+Had a high yards per carry
+Good vision
+Plays hard
+Low odometer

Negatives:

-Doesn’t do much on pass plays
-Never given much playing time at LSU (completely befuddles me)
-I’m not sure I’ve ever said this about a running back, but he’s kinda raw

When I watch LSU running back Michael Ford, I find myself remarkably confused. Why? I think to myself “This guy is obviously better than any of LSU’s five running backs. Not only that, but he also isn’t prone to boneheaded decisions that get him suspended or arrested (I’m talking to you, Spencer Ware and Jeremy Hill). Yet, of all LSU’s running backs, he easily gets the fewest carries (ranked 4th on the team, would be 5th if Alfred Blue hadn’t been injured). What is Les Miles thinking?”

I still can’t answer that question. Michael Ford’s lack of playing time, in my mind, is the biggest mystery in all of college football. I know of no reason to believe he’s done anything in his life to get into Les Miles’s doghouse. He’s never failed a drug test nor been arrested. If you account for the fact that Kenny Hill inflated his stats against Idaho and North Texas (most of his yards came in those two games), he has the highest yards per on the team. Yet he still only had 71 carries. 2011 was even crazier. Ford had 757 yards on 127 carries. Spencer Ware had 707 yards on 177 carries. Why Ware had 50 more carries is beyond me. Michael Ford looked spectacular in the first Alabama LSU game (72 yards on 11 carries) yet still only got 4 carries in the national championship. If they had given him the ball in that game, LSU might have had a shot at winning. But they didn’t. On the bright side, from a draft perspective, he only had 243 touches at the collegiate level, so his body isn’t too worn.

Still, Ford is easily one of the most underrated prospects of the draft. He may not have been given much playing time at the college (if an LSU fan reads this, please comment and tell me why). But when he got on the field during his college career, as rare as that was, he was something special.

Ford has excellent measurables. At 210lbs, among running backs, he had the 5th fastest 40 at the combine (4.50), and, more importantly, the 3rd best 10 yard split (1.51). That kind of burst is absolutely tremendous. He also has tremendous strength for his size, doing 25 bench reps at 225lbs at the combine, good for 5th or 6th among running backs (depends on whether or not you count Zach Line), and easily number one among running backs 210lbs or smaller. In terms of ratio of strength to size, really only two running backs competed with Ford; Zac Stacy (216lbs and 27 reps), who is a personal favorite of mine (look up Doug Martin’s combine and tell me if it’s anything but identical to Stacy’s), and Knile Davis (227lbs and 31 reps). He also had a 38.5 inch vertical. Bottom line, Ford has the strength of a 225lbs player but also the burst of a 195lbs player, all in a 210lbs body, an enviable combination that gives him superstar potential. I’ve always felt that, to be a true superstar running back, you need the burst necessary to make teams fear you as an outside runner as well as the power to make teams fear you on inside runs. Guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, and Marshawn Lynch. Ford fits the bill, and has superstar potential.

Ford is a dynamic athlete. He looked like a stud in the 2011 Alabama game. He’s a quick twitch athlete that gets to the outside corner faster than anyone expects and he can really explode once he’s there. His long speed isn’t elite, but his change of direction skills and shiftiness are, and he can really juke out a guy when necessary. He changes directions with ease and hits the hole quickly, showing nice burst through the middle. For a guy with his strength, the burst is something I love to see.

Ford is really strong. He is fearless in collisions with opponents, playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s tough to bring down. He is short and gets really good pad level, possessing a nice balance frame with great strength in the lower body, upper body, and core. His balance is terrific and he’s tough to bring down.

Ford also has quietly good vision. I mentioned in the positives and negatives that I thought he was kind of raw. That’s not related to his vision, which is actually quite good. It’s just that he has room to grow in terms of making defenders miss in the open field. I said two paragraphs ago that his change of direction skills are elite. He can do unstoppable stutter step moves and make quick cuts to get defenders off balance, and they can’t usually get a finger on him. But, for as good as he is with these moves, he sure doesn’t use the much. He often simply tries to either outrun or power through opponents in the open field, but the frustrating thing is that he flashes the ability to really get guys off balance with his quick feet and evade defenders. He just doesn’t use it enough. If he were to incorporate that into his game more, he could be a superstar.

Ford’s biggest weakness, without a doubt, is anything related to pass plays. His toughness and strength help, but, his short arms make him an average to mediocre pass blocker. As a pass catcher, well, I don’t actually know how good he is. He has 6 catches the last two years, and I either haven’t watch or haven’t scouted him in a game in which he has had a catch. And I’ve seen at least 8 LSU games the last two years.  He doesn’t see the field often, but he sees it even less on third down, but, even if I assume he can catch, I can’t imagine how raw he is as a route runner at this point. Right now, he’s only a two down back.

I love Ford. His combination of strength and quickness makes him one of the most underrated prospects of this draft. I still can’t figure out why he didn’t get more playing time at LSU, but he’s a darn good player.

NFL Comparison: Robert Turbin, except Turbin is proven as a pass catcher, but Ford is a tad quicker.

Grade: 75 (worthy of a mid 3rd round pick)

Projection: 31 (will be around a late 7th pick, with a good chance of going undrafted)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.hayes.7923 Rob Hayes

    (if an LSU fan reads this, please comment and tell me why).
    I will tell you why. The staff at LSU couldn’t recognize an offensive stud if it were a boil on their bottom end. I am an LSU fan and I myself prefer the defensive side of the ball however I question why any High school offensive player would even consider LSU. I Love LSU and I appreciate Les Miles and what he has done for the program but LSU has struggled way to long on offense. I hope Miles never leaves LSU his commitment to the program has been outstanding. However think back to JaMarcus Russell starting in front of Matt Flyn???? Huge mistake! Russell was inaccurate and in my opinion sucked. Flynn took LSU to a National Title and won it with limited mobility on a high ankle sprain. LSU derailed Flynn’s future NFL career the same way I fear they did Ford’s. Need I mention Jordon Jefferson was there really not a better player in the entire state of Louisiana? “Come On Man.” Ford is one of the main reasons the Tigers could even drive down the field when Jefferson was under center. The fact that Spencer Ware even played RB is a mystery to me. Just goes to show me that the staff at LSU plugs the wrong player in on offense. Ware is a linebacker in my opinion he has no latteral step what so ever. His game was running full steam straight ahead. Ware did make some very nice catches some even spectacular. Ford on the other hand has the moves like Jagger:) Ford was productive with every opportunity he was given even though everyone on God’s green earth knew when he got the call the play was to the edge yet no team could stop him. Ford’s kick return against the Razorbacks pretty much saved the game when the offense couldn’t move the ball might I mention Ford not having opportunity or even close to equal in attempts at RB. Ford is the player this Tiger fan wanted to see on the field. I like the FACT you mentioned Ford never shamed the program like Ware, Jefferson and Matthew yet these players received plenty of publicity some even still after being kicked off the team. LSU constantly ran out players on offense like Odell Beckham the king of the dropped pass. While a player like Russell Sheppard sat on the pine, Really? Was Sheppard going to average 3 – 4 drops a game. “Come On Man.” Beckham killed multiple drives througout the season, and possibly cost the game against Florida. Yet the staff continually ran him out on the field I guess it doesn’t hurt to have parents that formally played at LSU and that probably sucks for the staff in their defense. The best thing for Beckham is the fact college football doesn’t record dropped passes. Decisions like these by the staff raised the same type of questions you raise about why certain players aren’t seeing the field. The only hope any LSU fan like myself has moving forward on offense is LSU’s future with Cam Cameron. Cameron has a talented back field, the O-line we hope can evolve to protecting a pocket passer. The big thing for me is can LSU’s receivers get open can they catch? LSU fans are excited for next season however I will add we are cautiously optimistic.

    • Guest

      I wish you guys luck. Must have felt good to get that rant out of your system.

    • MacKenzie Pantoja

      I wish you guys luck. Must have felt good to get that out of your system

  • http://twitter.com/jdool123 Jason Dooley

    This is by far one of the most underrated backs. As an LSU fan and Leesville high school grad I can not understand what Lesley was thinking. I would have handed Ford the ball at least 50% of the carries. He was time in time out the best glimmer of the running game. Some NFL team will get a steal. He comes from a great family.