As you may know by now, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Auburn defensive end Dee Ford with the 23rd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft last night. Many have been puzzled by this selection, especially since the Chiefs have clear needs that are perhaps more important than adding depth to their already solid defense front. Let’s take a look at Ford and some of the potential reasons why he was selected:
A defensive end at Auburn who helped them reach the National Championship game against Florida State, Ford stands 6’2” and weighs 252. He had 14.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks last season (-96 yards), which was tied for 13th best in the nation in 2013.
Game film of Ford shows a few things. First, Ford bursts off the line like a bullet. He is very fast, and despite his smaller size for a DE/OLB, he has several moves that he uses to get through linemen. Second, he has a motor that never stops. In the national championship game, he shot off the line on every defensive snap at the same speed during the whole game. The only player I personally can compare that sort of motor to is Derrick Thomas (let’s hope he has a similar career!). Third, despite his great speed and motor, he can be pushed around a bit, and one of his weaknesses is stopping the run. Although this is discouraging, at Auburn’s pro day, he bench-pressed 225 lbs 29 times, which would have ranked #10 among defensive linemen at the combine. Clearly, the strength is there, and with the right coaching, this could be a good pickup for the Chiefs.
Head Coach Andy Reid, speaking with the media last night, said that Ford would play outside linebacker and would be a “third-down nickel guy.” Presumably, he will take Tamba Hali’s spot after 2014, making it likely that the Chiefs will release Hali to save some room in their salary cap. My guess is doing so will help them re-sign Alex Smith for a few more years.
While many Chiefs fans may feel let down that the Chiefs did not draft a big name playmaker (WR Marquise Lee from USC and DB Darqueze Dennard from Michigan St. were still available), I think we should all trust what Reid and GM John Dorsey are doing.
First of all, as Fox Sports points out, adding Ford to a defensive front that includes Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dontari Poe and Derrick Johnson means that Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning have one more body to be worried about.
Second, Reid talks about building a team from the line on out. He seems to be practicing what he preaches since he chose OT Eric Fisher with last year’s first pick. This should work well for the Chiefs, who already do have some proven playmakers (Bowe, Charles, Berry, Flowers, Smith), and adding more depth to the pass rush means the defensive backs’ jobs will be easier.
Third, as many have pointed out, this is a deep draft for DB’s and WR’s, two positions of great need in KC. Since KC cannot really afford any free agents, they seem to be hoping to find some playmakers in the later rounds of the drafts (as well as hoping Sanders Commings develops). However, they do not have a second round pick this year. I had been hoping they might swing a deal to trade down and add another draft pick, but that opportunity probably went away when Johnny Manziel was selected at #22 by the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs also need a return man, so I would not be surprised to see the Chiefs draft several receiver/running back types with their 5 remaining picks.
Fourth, as Reid mentioned above, Ford may start out as a third-down nickel linemen while he learns Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton’s system and studies Houston, Johnson, and Hali. In addition, with his high motor and great speed, he can provide some great defensive snaps late in games when the Chiefs need a quick stop or a sack, while providing some rest for KC’s trio of Pro Bowl linebackers.
Finally, as mentioned above, the Chiefs might be preparing for their eventual release of Tamba Hali by drafting Ford as his successor. Hali will be due $11 million in 2015 and releasing him could allow the Chiefs to sign Alex Smith for a few more years. I would not be surprised if the Chiefs select a developmental quarterback this year or next to groom into Smith’s replacement. Disappointed Chiefs fans should trust that Dorsey and Reid are trying to build a winner for years to come, not just next season.
It is obviously too early to judge the Chiefs draft, but let’s welcome Dee Ford to KC with open arms and see what Dorsey and Reid have in store for us the next few days.