The Saints need to take Dee Ford with their first pick in this year’s draft. They need a versatile pass-rusher to make Rob Ryan’s scheme work to perfection. They could also use another leader in the locker room to bring intensity to their defense.
Ford is unique in that he's one of the SEC's top pass-rushers over the last two seasons. He's a hard working team leader that has some faults in his game but not in his person. The Saints defense could really take the next step if they added him.
Off the field, Ford is the ideal player for any and every team. He keeps his nose clean. He’s a senior leader and was a team captain for the SEC Champion. A guy like him doesn’t hurt any locker room he’s in, especially when he has the personality Ford shows in the video below.
The Saints pass rush as a whole did very well last year. The biggest reason is because 14 different guys got a sack and 16 different guys got a hit on the quarterback. Pressure came from everywhere, but most of it came when the Saints moved to a four-man front instead of Ryan’s preferred three-man front.
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That’s because they didn’t have the ideal personnel for Ryan’s scheme. Sure, there are a pair of 10-sack guys in Junior Galette—a pleasant surprise from 2013—and Cameron Jordan—a former first round pick. Nonetheless, adding a pass-rusher who would complement Galette from the other side would be ideal.
Parys Haralson just didn’t get the job done in 2013 and is best used as a rotational player. Although they do get Victor Butler back this year, he’s coming off of an ACL injury that sidelined him for the 2013 season and could affect him during the 2014 season. The Saints need a starting outside linebacker.
Rob Ryan's Perfect Fit
Ford is a very unique prospect in that he’s very explosive coming to the ball and has been playing 4-3 defensive end his entire college career. However, he’s just 6’2" and 252 pounds. That’s after bulking up for the combine too, as he likely played closer to 240 pounds when watching the film on him.
In New Orleans, he’d be asked to rush the passer from a standing position, but he could also drop the unnecessary weight that he gained for the combine so that he could remain explosive. Ford doesn’t have much experience in coverage and is just average against the run as a defensive end.
That shouldn’t affect him in a move to the 3-4 though. He can set the edge effectively and should be able to team with Cameron Jordan or Akiem Hicks—depending on which side he lines up on—and take on any blocking that comes their way.
Pass rushing is the one aspect that Ford does extremely well. He’s exceptional with his burst off the line and uses his hands effectively to seek the quarterback out. He also doesn’t lose contain when going after a mobile quarterback and is able to attack the backfield better.
In Ryan’s scheme, he wouldn’t be asked to drop into coverage very much, as Ryan's outside linebackers rarely do so. In 2013, the starting outside linebackers combined for 102 coverage drop backs. Expect Ford to hit that number over a two-year span.
Ford as an edge-setter and pass-rushing linebacker would be the perfect fit for Ryan’s scheme. The Saints just need to take him and let him be great. If there was any team that could do it and any coach that would fit Ford’s personality, it’s Rob Ryan.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.