Jerome Ford - RB - Cincinnati
Welcome to the rookie profile for Jerome Ford. Ford started his career at the University of Alabama, where he, unfortunately, fell low on the depth chart. When looking into the 2020 season, Ford saw more of the same and decided to take his talents elsewhere to get more playing time. He transferred to the University of Cincinnati where he was the 1b in the backfield next to Gerrid Doaks, and then he became the workhorse during the 2021 season. It’s obvious Ford made the right decision as he is a legitimate prospect in this draft class now, following his electric senior year.
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 215 lbs
Age: 22 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.46s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 31″
Broad Jump: 118″
Bench Press: DNP
Jerome Ford was a low four-star recruit coming out of high school with offers from both teams he ended up playing for the University of Alabama and the University of Cincinnati. For his freshman year at the University of Alabama, he walked into a backfield that consisted of Damien Harris, Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs, and Brian Robinson. It looked like things might clear up the following year in 2019, but instead of another running back by committee approach, Najee Harris dominated the backfield with Brian Robinson being the primary relief back in the group. With Najee Harris and Brian Robinson planning on returning to the Crimson Tide in the 2020 season, Jerome Ford decided to take his talents elsewhere.
Cincinnati was originally in on Jerome Ford as a high school recruit and it seems that recruiting pitch stuck with Ford. For the 2020 season, Ford decided to play for the Cincinnati Bearcats where he was in a timeshare with Gerrid Doaks. Gerrid Doaks decided to take his talents to the NFL following the 2021 season, leaving Ford the opportunity to take the seat as the lead running back in the Bearcats’ backfield. He took full advantage of the opportunity, turning in 215 attempts for 1319 yards and a massive touchdown count of 19. He also added 21 receptions, 220 yards, and an additional touchdown through the air. He was a major contributor to the AAC Championship title and the Bearcats’ first CFP playoff birth and was later awarded First-team All-AAC honors.
Ford possesses a really exciting combination of size, speed, and agility. He’s surprisingly elusive for a running back of his size, executing slight changes of directions to create misses in tight spaces. His power is a nice piece to his game, consistently keeping his legs churning after contact carrying defenders for first downs and plus yardage. Hand in hand with his power is his nose for the endzone. He racked up 19 touchdowns this past season and it was evident that he was a weapon on the goal line. Additionally, at the line of scrimmage, Ford is exceptionally patient and allows the blocks to get set up in front of him. As soon as he identifies the running lane or cutback lane, he demonstrates really good burst to explode through the gap or into the open field. Once into the open field, he has the wheels to take it to the house, showing on tape the ability to outrun even DBs when he gets up to full speed.
In the passing game, he is more than viable. He runs solid routes that are asked of running backs (wheel routes, check-downs in the flats, check and releases in pass protection). He catches with soft hands and has quick hips to turn and explode upfield to rack up yards after the catch. The second part to being a good 3rd down back is pass protection. Ford may have room to improve on his technique, but he brings the same physicality and effort that he runs with to the pass protection part of his game.
The biggest knock in Jerome Ford’s game is his running style. He runs upright which leads to his power looking inconsistent on tape. When a defender tackles him low, he tends to go down easily. Low man wins in football, and Jerome Ford isn’t consistently the low man when initiating impact. Although, when he is, it’s exciting to watch.
When processing at the line of scrimmage, Ford demonstrates the ability to be patient and identifiy the gaps as they open up. But with his patience, sometimes he can become indecisive on where to go and when to burst through the running lane. That indecisiveness also shows up in pass protection with his decision to stick in the pocket to help pass protect or leak out for a check down option for his quarterback. Additionally, his change of direction isn’t the best. He really excels as a one-cut runner or small changes of direction.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 5
Jerome Ford has the skillset and size to be a 3 down back. He is a very good runner and viable in the passing game. But, he isn’t particularly elite in any one category in his game and not necessarily an elite athlete like some of the other running back prospects in the 2022 Draft class. Ford projects as a solid 1b in a rotational backfield that can pick up extra workload if there is an injury elsewhere in the rotation. If the Jaguars want to toss a late-round pick at Ford, he could be a great compliment to Etienne, especially with James Robinson most likely missing a majority if not all of the 2022 season and then becoming a restricted free agent. The Jets could also use a nice compliment to Michael Carter and potentially recreate a version of the thunder and lightning combination that was Javonte Williams and Michael Carter at UNC. Finally, the Seahawks and Cardinals could both use running back help depending on the free-agent status of James Conner and Chase Edmonds for the Cardinals and Rashaad Penny for the Seahawks.
Post Draft Analysis
Cleveland Browns- Round 5, Pick 13
The Cleveland Browns had a true overhaul to their offense this offseason through free agency, the trade market, and the NFL Draft. The organization moved on from Jarvis Landry in free agency and traded away Odell Beckham Jr. technically during the season. On the flip side, the Browns bring in Amari Cooper for absurdly cheap by trading away a 5th-round pick, and then also bring in Deshaun Watson via trade with the Houston Texans. Then in the draft, they bring in David Bell to fill a depth role or potentially push for a starting position. And with Kareem Hunt on the final year of his contract, the team brought in Jerome Ford in the fifth round to potentially get a shot at replacing Hunt as he is on the last year of his contract.
Hunt will be turning 27 before the beginning of the season and will be 28 at the start of next season. If Ford can make some noise and potentially replace Hunt in the role of RB2, the Browns don’t have to shell out a new contract to Hunt. If he doesn’t make the noise to earn himself a legitimate role in the rotation, the Browns are only out a fifth-round pick. But it’s not just Ford vying for the potential RB2 role opening up, D’Ernest Johnson also drew some eyes last season in a few games where he was filling in for one of Hunt or Chubb. But his contract is also up at the end of the season, making this a 3 horse race for that RB2 spot behind Chubb. Which is sure to get plenty of volumes as seen in recent years.
Jerome Ford has a realistic shot to become the RB2 in this offense if he impresses enough this year to make the team believe they can safely move on from Kareem Hunt and let Ford take the reigns. The talent he displayed at Cincinnati says that he is capable of being a versatile relief back to Nick Chubb. But that’s still asking a lot of a fifth-round NFL Draft selection and for at least 2022, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb are firmly ahead of him on the depth chart. There are plenty of upsides, but realize still it’s a long shot when selecting him in dynasty rookie drafts. On the bright side though, his ADP reflects his long-shot odds as he generally goes late in the third round or is even available as a waiver wire pick up after the rookie draft is over. He’s a great bench or taxi stash to observe and see what happens this year and at the very worst he provides some handcuff value. If Hunt or Chubb goes down and he gets a shot, see how he performs and decide if he’s worth continuing to stash next offseason. In redraft, he’s not worth the dart throw this year. Wait and see if he starts making some noise or if there is an injury ahead of him and go for him on waivers.
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Image Credit: Katie Stratman – USA TODAY Sports