Jerome Ford, Cincinnati RB | NFL Draft Scouting Report

If you thought the Ford GT was the fastest Ford in the nation, you better think again. Not only is Cincinnati Bearcats running back Jerome Ford a speed merchant on the field, but he’s also rapidly rising up 2022 NFL Draft boards after a sensational first season as a starter. While his ability to go 0-60 in the blink of an eye is impressive, Ford’s NFL Draft scouting report reveals that he has many desirable qualities to be an impact maker at the NFL level.

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Jerome Ford NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Running Back
  • School: Cincinnati
  • Current Year: Redshirt Junior
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 220 pounds

Jerome Ford Scouting Report

Although the 2022 NFL Draft running back class might not have players that command the attention like Najee Harris and Travis Etienne did last year, there’s still a deep group of talented playmakers at the position. Isaiah Spiller and Breece Hall entered the year as potential RB1s, and Kenneth Walker III and Kyren Williams are also highly regarded.

Behind them are a gaggle of impressive playmakers that bring their own range of abilities to the position. Within that group sits Cincinnati’s Ford, whose scouting report reveals the requisite traits and attributes to be a successful RB in the NFL. I currently have him tabbed as a top-100 prospect, and here’s why.

It’d be remiss to start Ford’s profile anywhere other than game-breaking speed. His high school testing numbers reveal genuine straight-line speed. This is immediately obvious on tape. There are countless runs where the Cincinnati RB can break off chunk plays with defenders trailing in his wake. He’s a genuine home-run-hitting threat that will translate well to the next level.

However, it isn’t just in a straight line that Ford is athletically impressive. He possesses quick feet and fluid hips. As a result, Ford has excellent change-of-direction ability. The Cincinnati running back can plant his toes, flip his hips, and leave defenders clutching at the thin air that used to contain the 5’11”, 220-pound RB. Ford’s quick, explosive, and possesses impressive burst. He cuts with no discernible drop-off in speed.

While speed kills, physicality saps the will of an opponent. Ford has excellent lower body strength, allowing him to constantly grind out yardage. He possesses fantastic leg drive, rarely stopping on first contact when driving into a pile of bodies. Furthermore, he embraces contact as a runner, routinely lowering his shoulder to initiate contact. His combination of lower body strength and quick feet ensure he demonstrates impressive contact balance both behind and beyond the line of scrimmage.

Ford is also a patient and intelligent running back who routinely demonstrates impressive vision. He’ll utilize every inch behind his blocker before using his athletic ability to burst through a hole. He doesn’t just plow straight into the line and hope for the best. He has a good understanding of angles and knows how to manipulate them to remove defenders from the game.

Being an impressive runner is no longer a guarantee of landing a role in the NFL. The league now covets three-down backs who can impact the passing game both as a blocker and receiver. Ford is certainly willing in this regard. He’s improved as a receiver this year, and his speed and previous experience as a receiver are obvious in how he runs routes.

As a blocker, his football intelligence is on display as he seeks out work and often can be seen shifting alignment to meet the man who poses the greatest threat to his quarterback. Ford’s speed also ensures that he can get out to the second level to help pave the way, and there are many examples of him acting almost as a lead blocker for Desmond Ridder.

Areas for improvement

There’s no questioning Ford’s ability to play at the NFL level. His combination of speed, physicality, and football intelligence, alongside all the nuances that make for an excellent running back, are within his possession. However, there are some areas of concern and improvement on Ford’s scouting report.

While not a critical factor, I’d be willing to bet that he measures less than his listed 220 pounds. Although he has a strong and muscular lower body, he doesn’t have that “bowling-ball build” of someone who’s 220 in a 5’11” frame.

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This is apparent as a blocker. While Ford displays excellent lower body strength as a runner, he’s routinely upended when blocking. As I said before, he’s willing in this regard. However, too many times he can be thrown up in the air or straight into the dirt. Additionally, rather than squaring up as a blocker, he’ll lead with his shoulder, which does very little to halt his opponent.

Although he’s improved as a pass catcher this season, Ford doesn’t feel like a natural catcher of the ball. There’s an awkwardness to how he receives the ball that he will need to work on if he’s to be considered a three-down back in the NFL.

Jerome Ford Player Profile

Although Ford is garnering attention as an ascending NFL Draft RB prospect, his future at the position hasn’t always been so clear. A Tampa native, he was a standout rusher at the youth league level. But when he transitioned to Armwood High School, he found himself occupying a multitude of positions.

In fact, until his senior year, he was primarily a wide receiver on offense while playing safety on defense. By his own accounts, Ford wasn’t a particularly good receiver either. Despite this, he secured 17 catches for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns as a high school junior in 2016.

What was apparent from a young age was that Ford has exceptional athletic ability. He recorded a 4.4-second 40-yard dash while at Armwood. Furthermore, he registered a 10.61-second 100-meter time.

That speed served him well — not just as a running back in his senior year but as a kick returner, too. During the state semifinals, he scored a kick return touchdown that secured Armwood’s passage to the state championship.

Versatility leads to opportunity

As a result of his versatility, Ford was tabbed as an all-purpose back in the 2018 recruiting class. While 247Sports adorned him with four-star status, some recruiting sites only viewed him as a three-star player. Nonetheless, he wasn’t short of interest. A March 2016 offer from USF began a cycle that included over 20 offers.

Those teams included his eventual destination of Cincinnati. Still, with a reputation as a running back factory to the NFL Draft, Ford committed to Alabama in December 2017. Yet, it wasn’t just the professional opportunity afforded to him in Tuscaloosa that formed his decision to roll with the Crimson Tide.

“Coach Saban really takes care of his players,” Ford told Andrew Bone of BamaInsider.com. “My mom and I really loved that. It was all about who could take care of me as if I was their own kid. Coach Saban does that. My decision was really based on Coach Saban and the way he treats his players.”

Saban and Alabama also have a reputation for not playing their new recruits much in their first season with the program. Despite losing Bo Scarbrough to the NFL Draft, Ford entered an RB room that consisted of future NFL stars Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Damien Harris.

As a result, Ford saw action in just four games before taking a redshirt in 2018. Although he made his debut against Louisville, he really made an impression against Louisiana. The running back tallied 33 yards on just 3 carries, including a then-career-long 15-yard rush.

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His performances in limited action ensured a first career start in 2019. Ford led the team against Duke with 64 yards on 10 carries, also securing his first career touchdown. Further scores would come against Southern Miss and Western Carolina. However, he was once again limited to four appearances, tallying 114 rushing yards on 24 carries. With Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. dominating the running back room, Ford decided to enter the transfer portal.

“I’m thankful for everything Coach Saban did for me, and the opportunity to play at Alabama around all the great coaches and other great players,” Ford told a media call during College Football Playoff week while reflecting on his transfer from Tuscaloosa.

Ford proves a hot commodity in the transfer portal

Former four-star running back recruits are always a hot commodity, and teams that had pursued Ford found themselves vying for his signature once more. He didn’t remain in the transfer portal long, however. One team had left a lasting impression on him from his first experience on the recruiting trail.

“Coming out of high school, [Cincinnati assistant coach] Gino Guidugli was a great recruiter for my area. He came, and he talked to me. I was real high on Cincinnati but ended up choosing Alabama. And when I entered the transfer portal I knew that Coach G was still a great guy and a place that I felt that I could go to. That’s how I ended up choosing Cincinnati.”

The Bearcats already had a No. 1 running back in Gerrid Doaks, ensuring that Ford was again resigned to backup duties. Nonetheless, being a backup for Cincinnati yielded more results than in Alabama. During his first season with the Bearcats, he appeared in 10 games before making his first start for the program in the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia.

Even before the 79-yard touchdown in that game, Ford had made his mark. During the regular season, the Cincinnati RB rushed for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns against Memphis. He’d made his presence felt with a touchdown in the AAC Championship Game win over Tulsa. Furthermore, he routinely displayed his explosive nature, with 4 rushing touchdowns of over 20 yards.

Can the Cincinnati RB be a top-100 player in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Those performances were just a taste of things to come. With Doaks departing to the NFL Draft, Ford assumed the lead RB role in 2021.

He opened the season with consecutive 100-plus-yard games, the first of five such performances in his final season. Those included a career-high 189 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win over UCF. Ford failed to score a TD in just one game this season, while a 79-yard score against Houston in the AAC Championship Game helped him earn MVP honors in that game.

With the College Football Playoff game against his former team still to come, Ford’s path to the 2022 NFL Draft is still ongoing. The Alabama defense will form his toughest test this year.

Yet, Ford has proven he has the explosive ability and game-changing speed to overcome any obstacle. Regardless, the Cincinnati running back has the potential to be a top-100 player in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

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