Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) is tackled by Auburn Tigers defensive end Dee Ford (30) during the first half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dee Ford represents a little more of an unknown proposition as he did not participate in the Combine drills due to a medical precaution concerning his back. That alone is a bit of a flag for any Cowboys fan who has seen the team gamble on players such as Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne. Guys who have clear top shelf talent but have also found it difficult to stay on the field.
Ford did participate in Auburn’s pro day however and certainly impressed. While he is smaller than Ealy by two inches and almost thirty pounds, he is also much faster. His 40-yard dash times were in the mid 4.5’s which is on par with Clowney. He also benched the requisite 225 lbs nine more times than Ealy (29 to 22) and his vertical leap was four inches higher (35″ to 31″). As far as drills go, Ealy only bested Ford in the three cone drill which is scary to think about as Ealy is certainly no slouch athletically.
Ford also provides a couple of intangibles. First, prior to finding out that he would not be capable of participating in the Combine, he let anyone with a recording device know that he considers himself to be equal to or better than the much hyped Jadeveon Clowney. You have to like a defensive lineman that exhibits a confidence and swagger like that. You also have to like that he has day in and day out experience going against a bona fide top five offensive line prospect in fellow Auburn Tiger Greg Robinson. That is a luxury that Kony Ealy did not have as there are no top flight prospects on the Missouri offensive line. Lastly, the experience of playing in two National Championship games is also invaluable. Winning a championship and putting together two sacks in the biggest game of the year is certainly something you like to see.
Ford’s game tapes are not as jaw-dropping athletically as his pro day drills might suggest. He is more of a solid type of all around player that shows very good initial burst off the snap to gain the corner. He relies mostly on pure speed when rushing the quarterback but has enough power in his arms and hands to surprise his opponent, especially in his initial pop. His size is going to preclude him from being a dominating run stopper but it also provides him an advantage as he is capable of dropping into coverage, showing off his balance and ability to quickly change directions. Ford’s game day production is very close to Ealy’s as well. Posting 14.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in the SEC certainly backs up what the tapes show you.
So, if push comes to shove, which prospect would fit better with the Cowboys? Both players will definitely be there at sixteen which affords the Cowboys the possibility of trading down and obtaining another pick while still filling a void. Ford is probably the better all-around player but he may project better as a 3-4 outside linebacker as opposed to a 4-3 defensive end. Given that, as well as the appeal of Ealy’s freakish athleticism and superior size, I believe the Cowboys should go with Kony Ealy over Dee Ford if defensive end is truly the biggest need.