Barry Jackson

Positive reviews for Dolphins’ WR pick Ford

Virginia Tech's Isaiah Ford runs the ball in the first quarter against Tulsa to score a touchdown on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, at the Independence Bowl NCAA college football game in Shreveport, La.
Virginia Tech's Isaiah Ford runs the ball in the first quarter against Tulsa to score a touchdown on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, at the Independence Bowl NCAA college football game in Shreveport, La. AP

Feedback on Virginia Tech receiver Isaiah Ford, the Dolphins’ seventh-round pick who will compete with Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant for a roster spot:

• Mel Kiper: “He made a lot of plays during his career, had some impressive catches on passes that were off target in contested situations. You like his work ethic. He’s 195 pounds. He added 15 punds of muscle entering 2016, can keep working on being more physically imposing. Only ran a 4.6 40 but is quicker than people than people give him credit for. He will end up at 205. At that point in time, if he doesn’t lose any speed, he has a chance to be a fourth or fifth receiver with the Miami Dolphins.”

• NFL.com:

THE BACKGROUND: Even though the 6-foot-1 Ford averaged 37 points a game as a high school basketball star, football called his name. Virginia Tech signed the Jacksonville native, and played him immediately as a freshman. Ford earned honorable mention All-ACC honors that year, leading the team in receptions (56), receiving yards (709), and receiving touchdowns (six). His sophomore year was even better, as the first-team all-conference pick set school records in each of the major categories (75-1,164, 11 scores). The production was maintained in a second-team All-ACC 2016 season, with 79 catches, 1,094 yards and seven scores.

STRENGTHS: Superb athlete with good height. Able to shake press coverage with quick jab step and sudden burst. Feet look spring-loaded underneath. Features big acceleration out of his breaks and is able to create easy throwing windows on slants and crossing routes. Varies route speed to disguise his intentions. Chomps up cushion with his speed and stems defenders into off-balance transitions and false steps. Sustains vertical danger throughout his routes. Can get up and over cornerbacks without appearance of much effort. Tracks the deep ball and has ball skills to finish. Works back to underthrown passes and is able to contort in mid-air to make the catch.

WEAKNESSES: Thin frame needs weight for greater functional strength. Can be redirected off route by force. Will sit and wait too long on throws. Needs to shield throws from defender. Can be late adjusting to off-target throws. Average hand strength as pass catcher. Has speed, but lacks elusiveness after the catch. Lacks instincts for the position. Gets open with speed and quickness rather than being route-savvy. Physicality and athleticism of NFL cornerbacks will take adjustment time. Positional run blocker who can be thrown out of the way by aggressive cornerbacks.

DRAFT PROJECTION: Round 4-5

NFL COMPARISON: Justin Hunter

BOTTOM LINE: Tall but thin, Ford uses his suddenness to uncover on all three levels and his speed to climb over the top and stress defenses vertically. His play strength is concerning as NFL cornerbacks will consistently challenge him off the line of scrimmage. He also has to prove he can be effective when facing zone coverage. He has the height and speed to be a deep-ball menace in the right scheme, but he has a little lower floor than some Day 2 receiver prospects in this draft.

• Pro Football Focus’ take:

What he does best:

Great use of hands during routes. He can use them to help beat press off the line, he uses them to create slight separation during his routes and can use them at catch point.

Good body control, able to high-point 50/50 balls and has good awareness of field surrounding to come down inbounds if near the sideline.

Can track the ball well in the air and adjust his route to optimal positioning for the catch.

Quick feet, separated well on slant routes where he caught 12-of-19 targets for 136 yards in 2016, though he did drop four of those seven incompletions.

Can generally beat press coverage with a combination of his hands and footwork.

Good, strong hands at catch point, can win contested catches with them.

Can be really quick and explosive in and out of his breaks.

Really sells his double moves and created separation often on stop-and-go routes.

Biggest concern:

Speed doesn’t show on tape. Had a hard time creating separation on routes using speed alone.

Use of hands during routes can also be a negative, as some of his work would be called for offensive pass interference in the NFL.

Can get muscled downfield by corners, has missed many catches because of the combination of lack of separation and unable to get off the defender’s body at catch point.

Didn’t run a ton of routes at Virginia Tech. 67 percent of his routes were slants, hitches and go routes.

receiver prospects in this draft.

Doesn’t offer much after the catch. Rarely breaks a tackle and doesn’t show a ton of vision or quickness on screen passes. Forced only 18 missed tackles on 210 catches over the last three years.

Concentration issues. Has had inexcusable drops in games and appears to not run full speed at times during games.

Bottom line: Ford is a tough player to evaluate, because he does some things very well but just doesn’t seem to have every piece to be a top NFL receiver. He’s not big and strong enough to outmuscle defenders, he’s not fast enough to just burn them, but he does have impressive body control to make catches in tight coverage. His quick footwork that allows him to beat press coverage and get open out of his breaks, as well as his ability to win jump balls makes him a solid receiving prospect. His ceiling may be a WR2, but that’s very valuable in today’s NFL.

Here are links to analyst reviews on the Dolphins’ other picks today:

Isaac Asaita click here

Davon Godchaux click here

Vincent Taylor click here

And check back for more later Saturday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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