I'm taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins Thursday night. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there is an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com -- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they are projected.
Player: Dee Ford
Position: Outside linebacker
College production: He had 29 tackles, including 14.5 for loss and 10.5 sacks, according to Auburn's website. He finished his career with 27.5 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks.
How he'd fit: As another pass-rusher, capable of playing in nickel situations. (Remember: The Redskins were in nickel nearly 70 percent of the time last season.) He could eventually take over for Brian Orakpo, if they let him walk after this season (and don't feel like paying two outside linebackers big money).
What I liked: His speed. It's really hard not to like it considering how fast he ran at his pro day (4.59 in the 40). But it's not just his speed, it's his first step and ability to anticipate the snap. It'll be harder to do that against NFL quarterbacks, but it was easy in college. There were times when I'd hit pause and Ford would be a yard in the backfield while everyone else along the front was still at the line. Ford dominated in the Senior Bowl, giving right tackle Jack Mewhort fits among others. At times the right tackles would have to almost run to a spot rather than slide because Ford would win otherwise. Love his motor; did not see him quit on plays and would see him pursue ball carriers even when he appeared to have no chance. Set up interior rushers with his pressure. He has strong hands; at times he was able to grab onto the quarterback with one hand and drag him down while still being blocked. They make up for average arm length. Fared well against Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi. Ford rushed from both the right and left sides and also from a three-point stance, a four-point stance and standing up. He's very athletic and has good change-of-direction ability, though he's more comfortable going forward than in space.
What I didn't: I did not see him being all that strong against the run. He was much easier to block in that area than in the pass game. I did not see him getting off run blocks enough to make plays or to set a hard edge against tackles. He would need to probably add 10 more pounds to help become more effective in this area -- and learn to take on double-teams -- otherwise he'll just be an extra rusher. But I could see him being a threat to make plays from the backside because of his speed and quickness. I saw him drop into coverage only a couple of times and usually to take the running back one-on-one. He'll have to improve there. He missed games each season due to injuries so durability will be a concern. He did not make game-changing plays: one forced fumble and one interception in his career.
Projection: Possible late first, second. Ford is considered a bit of a tweener -- is he a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker? I did not see a reason he couldn't find his way in either one, but in both cases he'll be limited early. It'll be best to use him as a rusher in his first season and then develop the rest of his game. On the positive side, he received high marks for intangibles.
Other players examined: