Arguably the best player in the draft without a combine invitation, Texas nose tackle Poona Ford’s strong senior year and very impressive Senior Bowl performance tucks his name among the finer sleeper picks. Projections for the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year range from the fifth round all the way down the seventh, with almost zero mocking him anywhere near day one or two, an oddity for a player who had dominated both the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl to his decree. While concerns about height handicap his perceived value to teams, short nose tackles have found great success in this league before.
Position: Nose tackle
Pro comparison: Mike Daniels
(All stats are courtesy of CFB Sports Reference)
A powerful rusher, Ford has flashed enough upper body to effectively avoid redirect blocks and utilizes his thick build for solid gap filling abilities. He also possesses much more length than he gets credited for with 33’ arms to boot.
However, his greatest gift lies in his sense of leverage. Because of his small stature, Ford has an uncanny ability for getting low and squeezing through blockers from his low hips alone. Complemented by his sturdy upper body strength, watch how he pries through for the sack.
He also flaunts great motor. A determined player who can make plays well out of his area. With any player of this height in the pros, intensity and motor can make up for a lot of size deficiencies. Ford is one of those cases. While not a particularly speedy player, watch the impressive chase down tackle from him.
Ford has very little block shedding capabilities due to his inactive hands and general lack of quickness. If he does not win with the bull rush, he will not win at all. His lack of height isn’t a deal breaker but without improvement to his little explosiveness off blocks, he could be a liability in the pass rush.
Texas utilized him mostly in a slanting scheme and without the right scheme, he may flounder in being asked to make tackles in opposite gaps as he often gets too caught up in the man in front of him. His impact could be very limited in the run game in a scheme that does not emphasize the slant. Asking anything outside of gap disruption may be too much for him to handle.
Fit with Bears
With Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks locking down the defensive line as the primary defensive lineman, Ford’s wrecking ball style has run stuffing potential on a defense focused on a versatile pass rush. His lack of agility won’t bode well in pass rush but his gap filling skill could benefit Leonard Floyd on the outside.
While he will not be worth a high pick, seeing as his stock is relatively low, if available in the later rounds, he could be worth the pickup. With some improvements to his block shedding, Ford will be a nice addition.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Thomas)