Entering the 2016 season, the wide receiver class showed tremendous potential at the top of the draft class. With guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Malachi Dupre and Isaiah Ford at the top, there looked to be a lot of promise. While that particular trio had ‘down’ years based on what was expected from them, they still managed to post productive seasons (maybe not Dupre), although they didn’t hang on to that top WR status.
In Ford’s case, he finished his career at Virginia Tech as one of the most illustrious pass catchers in Hokies’ history. In 2015 he broke the single-season receiving yards record, and this past season he re-broke his single-season receptions record. If you watch Ford’s highlight tape, there’s likely to be a handful of big, downfield catches. However, there lies a problem with that.
The common narrative thrown around leading up to the draft is that Isaiah Ford struggles monumentally to create separation in his routes, and after watching the film, I can attest to that. At the next level, he’s going to make his living downfield as a big play threat. However, he displays a variety of limitations, his size and lack of speed being the major ones.
Name: Isaiah Ford
Size: 6’1” / 194 / 32 5/8” Arm Length / 9 1/4” Hands
School: Virginia Tech
Comparison: Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys)
Draft Grade: 4th Round
Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash: 4.61 / Bench Press: 14 Reps / Vertical Jump: 35.5” / Broad Jump: 127” / 3-Cone Drill: 6.94 / 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.34
— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) March 30, 2017
Positives: Could be the best in the class at catching those back shoulder throws. Fluid body control to adjust his positioning towards the ball. Downfield weapon. Always a threat to catch deep, contested passes. Lethal on fade routes. Incredible ability to locate the ball in the air. Uses his eyes to locate the ball to it’s drop point. High points the ball with concentration, elevation and excellent hand-eye coordination. Tracks the ball over his shoulder well and uses a smooth, soft clamp to latch the ball. Can make the downfield catches as he’s falling back. Works the sideline well. Creates mild separation on comebacks. Quick, deceptive feet on sluggo routes. Forces defensive pass interference more than most receivers. Possesses the frame to add 10-15 pounds which shouldn’t hinder his overall quickness. Productive college player. Standout high school basketball player.
Negatives: Inability to gain separation in his routes is concerning – not too farfetched to say he never gets separation. Allows his man to stick with him step-for-step most of the time. Lacks burst out of his release and struggles at the point of attack. Not explosive or strong after the catch and struggles to create RAC. Without the strong hands to haul in passes with too much juice – the ball will bounce out of his hands into interception territory. Won’t haul in extended catch attempts. Unenthusiastic blocker. Doesn’t hold blocks long enough – allows man to disengage at last second to approach ball carrier. Shows signs of immaturity. Will voice obvious frustration on the field. 40 yard dash time could be considered slow, especially at his size. Underweight.
Outlook: Isaiah Ford is a pure vertical receiver. Not in the sense that he’s going to beat you over the top with his speed; but he’ll get downfield and make those tough, contested catches with his combination of body control, concentration, hand-eye coordination and ability to locate the ball at it’s high point. His lack of speed is concerning, and his inability to gain separation in his routes is even more alarming. However, Ford is only 21 years old as of February – one of the youngest players in the class. The upside is there if he can develop a bit more explosiveness in his routes, but that’s much easier said than done. He fits best in a passing scheme that likes to force the ball downfield and allow their receivers to make plays. At worst, he provides a downfield impact as a depth receiver. Ford can sneak in during the latter stages of day 2, but he’ll likely fall in the 4th round which is where he grades out for me.