+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
-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)